Friday, 6 April 2012

Rigoletto, 2nd & 4th April - A welcome return to the richness and beauty of Italian opera

So after a three week break from my operatic outings, I was back with a vengeance this week with a double outing to Rigoletto. The reason for this double outing was that I was taking two separate groups of friends and family to Covent Garden, some for the first time, which is always a joy! It proved to be quite interesting too, as Vittorio Grigolo, who was due to play the Duke of Mantua for the entire run, pulled out of Wednesday's performance allowing for some constructive comparison between himself and Francesco Meli who stepped in.

I really enjoyed Rigoletto, as I absolutely thought I would. The music was fantastic and the story engaging. For me it was another triumph for Verdi and Italian opera. The cast in this production were good on both evenings, although I have to say that for me Monday night pipped Wednesday to the post. Some have been slightly off about Vittorio Grigolo's performance in this current run at the ROH, and there is some validity in what's been said. At times he seemed to be projecting loudly for the sake of it and not because it enhanced his singing or performance in anyway. He's been dubbed the new Pavarotti by some, whilst I don't think this was evidenced on Monday, the comparison isn't a ridiculous one (although personally, i don't think anyone will ever be able to match up to the late tenor!). I enjoyed his singing more that Francesco Meli's as it was stronger and richer in sound. He also did a better job of portraying the lecherous Duke of Mantua, his dashing looks helping him along the way! The role of Rigoletto was played by Dimitri Platanias, who again had some iffy reviews for his portray of the deformed court jester. I felt he did a good job though, I felt real empathy for the character through his portrayal and he added a real air of tragedy to this deeply tragic character.

The rest of the cast were also solid in my view and the conductor, John Eliot Gardiner, really brought the dramatic score to life on both evenings. This was especially the case for me in the final act, which was the part I enjoyed the most. It's full of great music, including the famous La donna è mobile performed by the Duke of Mantua (you'll know this tune, even if you're not aware of it's name or origin: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8A3zetSuYRg), as well as the tension and drama that brews through a thunderstorm to the tragic climax. I think the only complaints that I might have about this production is the staging. Overall it's not particularly bad. It's essentially a one set piece that alternates between being the Duke's house and Rigoletto's house, revolving when necessary. The revolving though is partly the issue for me. There is one moment during Act I when everything pauses for the set to revolve. The revolution thought takes just a few moments too long, to the point where I seriously wondered if the set had broken (not so, unless there were identical problems on two evenings). It just seemed to kill everything off for a moment as it seemed to be getting into it's stride. There is also a designated 'pause' between Act II and Act III. Normally this is for a set change of some kind, however on this ocassion, it simply seemed to be a pause in the action as the curtains remained up and nothing especially apparent happened to the set. I'm sure there was a good reason for it, i just couldn't see what the reason was!

In summary though, this was a great evening at the opera. It was something of a relief to be back at Covent Garden for the sort of opera that really gets me going. The last Verdi opera was back in January with La traviata. Since then it's been a run of Mozart and then Rusalka. None of which were especially bad (Don Giovanni aside!), but none of which really enraptured me in the same way as a good old fashioned opera from an Italian great does!Viva Verdi! Viva Rigoletto!

Rating: ****
Seats: E39 & C39, Amphitheater, £37, **** (Excellent value really for a full view of the stage and close to the front of the Amphitheater)
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