Saturday, 5 June 2004

Rigoletto by Giuseppe Verdi, Melbourne Opera, June 5, 2004

Rigoletto  by Giuseppe Verdi 
Melbourne Opera Company

Where and When: June 5 to 13 June, 2004

Reviewer: Kate Herbert on June 5

Giuseppe Verdi's Rigoletto is a commendable sequel to Madame Butterfly for Melbourne Opera Company's 2004 season.

Armando Krieger  conducts the Melbourne Opera Orchestra with taste, control and sensitivity. On alternate evenings Resident Conductor, Greg Hocking conducts.  Leading roles alternate performances also.

Verdi wrote Rigoletto in forty days in 1851. It is an energetic and masterly score with arias recognisable even to non-cognoscenti.

The hunchback, Rigoletto, is jester to the rakish Duke of Mantua (Aydin Ustik) who violates anyone's wife or daughter. Rigoletto mercilessly mocks everyone until Count Monterone (Manfred Pohlenz) curses him for his heartless ridicule of Monterone's daughter's abuse.

Gilda, (Vanessa West) Rigoletto's sweet daughter, he protects like a precious jewel only to face her abduction and ruin at the hands of the Duke and his vile courtiers. In the title role is Andrea Rola whose warm baritone was only minimally affected by a recent virus.

A feature of the production is West as Gilda and the delicate, flute-like tone of her sweet and controlled soprano. She is subtle and understated in the role. West sings Gilda's love aria, Caro Nome, with perfect simplicity and naivete. Her duets with Rola are compelling, as is her love duet with Ustik.

Ustik has a soaring and bright lyric quality to his tenor voice. His version of La Donna e' Mobile (Women are fickle) is rich and passionate with a rivetting final held note.

In the last act we have a treat with mezzo-soprano, Roxane Hislop, singing Maddalena, the seductive sister of the hired assassin, Sparafucile (Jonathan Truscott). Her voice has warmth and power and her performance is convincing.

Director, Greg Carroll, is directing his first opera, which, at times, is evident. The production works best when he concentrates on the sexuality in the play during the chorus scenes, focussing on the seduction and abuse of innocents. The leads, particularly Rola, seem physically static on stage and do not fully inhabit the characters while singing Verdi's wonderful music.

Melbourne Opera Company works on a simple set designed by Peter Corrigan with wonderfully dramatic and often stark lighting by Paul Jackson. The focus is always on the music rather than set or costuming which is a welcome change.

LOOK FOR: A beautiful rendition of Caro Nome by Vanessa West.

By Kate Herbert

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