Rigoletto back with a bang

Discounting the dreadful Anna Nicole, to which wild horses couldn’t drag me back a second time, the Royal Opera’s season opened with Verdi’s dark 1851 masterpiece, Rigoletto. On 27 September, it was a full-blooded performance of Italian vigour, and definitely one to blow the cobwebs away.

Maurizio Benini was on duty in the pit, driving the orchestra hard whilst still allowing space for the singers: the contrast was thrilling as the big set piece act-closers hoved into view… The storm of act 4 – surely one of Verdi’s most atmospheric effects, with the chorus providing the howling wind to follow the orchestral thunderclaps – was beautifully, hauntingly realised. The orchestra played wonderfully throughout, with particularly characterful brass and woodwind contributions and some very threatening timpani. (more…)

ROH Rigoletto

An interesting and very enjoyable Rigoletto at ROH last night. I always forget – between encounters – just what a romping good piece this is.

With John Eliot Gardiner at the helm, it started coolly, almost subdued. The so-called ‘orgy’ on-stage (which never works, as I noted last time) didn’t suffer for that. As the drama deepened, the pacing and dynamics became more variable and responsive. As an example, the fantastic close to Act 2, Si, Vendetta!, started at a rather measured tread, slightly slow, prompting in me some slight surprise, but with each ‘stepping up’ of the musical frisson, just a little extra pace was added, ultimately powering the music to an exciting climax. The storm scene was as thrilling as it should be.   (more…)

A celebration of artistic generosity

Well, we’re freshly back from an afternoon where the celebratory warmth in the auditorium was distinctly at odds with the repetitiously murderous events on stage.  Anchored around Plácido Domingo, the final acts of Otello, Rigoletto and Simon Boccanegra (strangling, stabbing and poisoning, respectively) provided more of an opportunity for the great man to celebrate his ensemble skills than for virtuoso display.  Which is fitting, for an artist of his generosity and integrity. (more…)

Rigoletto at the Royal Opera

Not going to labour this one. I, and the group I was with, had a rollicking good time.

True, the production could benefit from a little bit of oomph.  The opener is a bit of an unpromising start.  There’s something dispiriting about the Royal Opera Chorus doing ‘filthy’, which somehow always drifts in the direction of ‘bawdy’, and ends up looking like a 197os sitcom romp.  Those two that get stripped naked and pushed at each other are rather surplus to requirements, especially if they are just going to lie flopped on each other… (more…)