I looked forward to my Royal Opera House trip all week, especially as I was taking a ROH virgin along with me! We went to see the fifth revival of David Vicar’s production of Rigoletto, first staged in 2001.Rigoletto was written by the magnificent Verdi, an opera composer who many argue is superior to all those who worked in the genre before or after him. His intensely dramatic music is some of the world’s most celebrated and never fails to move me. La Traviata is my favourite opera by Verdi and also the first opera I ever saw, but this was my first time seeing Rigoletto.
There is nothing quite like sitting in London’s Royal Opera House, it is one of the great wonders of our city. I always feel thrilled to be part of such an excited sea of audience members, all sitting on the edge of their seats waiting for the conductor’s first wave of his oh-so important baton.
Vicar’s production is, on the whole quite dark and moody, and takes place in the shadows of the giant set. As the curtain rises we are treated to a shockingly bawdy scene. Perhaps I am being prudish but I found it a little too distracting, especially when one poor chorus member strips completely and runs around stark naked, quite a sight at The Royal Opera House!
The set is cleverly built to be reversible, the palace on one side, and Rigoletto’s house/Sparafucile’s inn on the other; it can be moved accordingly. Effective on the whole, but unfortunately it took rather a long time to move leaving an awkward silence in between Acts. The singing is the highlight for me, and I left thinking it the most impressive display of vocal talent I have ever seen on this stage. Dmitri Hvorostovsky (who played the role in 2005) once again takes to the stage as the desperate joker Rigoletto. His dark baritone voice is rich and resonant - he sings the melancholic role with conviction and credible emotion throughout. Wookyung Kim returns to Covent Garden to sing the part of the precious Duke, his energy and commitment to the role is obvious, his light tenor is very enjoyable to listen to, though I couldn’t help being disappointed that he isn’t better looking, a quality the Duke requires. Patrizia Ciofi and Ekaterina Sadovnikova share the role of Gilda for this production. Sadovnikova was performing the night I went and sang her little heart out and seemed very comfortable acting with Hvorostovky on stage, together they have some touching father and daughter moments on stage. I was a little disappointed with Daniela Innamorati who plays Maddalena, her voice did not quite live up to the part on the night, and she suffered against the other singers in the final Act quartet.
At university I had a brilliant class called ‘Verdi and Shakespeare’, we touched briefly on Rigoletto although I realised, during the performance that I had forgotten many of the opera’s details. As the final Act began I suddenly remembered the horribly tragic conclusion, and couldn’t stop myself audibly gasping.
The ROH never fails to put on a show, with glorious sets and stunning costumes and great attention to detail, this production of Rigoletto is no different.
Rigoletto continues until 6 November 2010, book tickets here.