Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
Rigoletto - Melodramma in three acts (1851) [2:11:00]
Rigoletto – Alan Opie (baritone); Borsa – David Corcoran (tenor); Count Ceprano – Christopher Hillier (baritone); Marullo – Andrew Moran (baritone); Duke of Mantua – Paul O’Neill (tenor); Countess Ceprano – Jane Parkin (mezzo); Count Monterone – Gennadi Dubinsky (baritone); Sparafucile – David Parkin (bass); Gilda – Emma Matthews (soprano); Giovanna – Elizabeth Campbell (mezzo); A page – Jodie McGuren (mezzo); A court usher – Clifford Plumpton (tenor); Maddelena – Elizabeth Campbell (mezzo)
Opera Australia Chorus and Orchestra/Giovanni Reggioli
Elijah Moshinsky (director); Michael Yeargan (designer); Robert Bryan (lighting designer); Cameron Kirkpatrick (TV Director)
rec. live, Sydney Opera House, 18 September 2010
NTSC 16:9 all regions; LPCM stereo, dts digital surround;
subtitles in English, French, German, Spanish and Italian
There is nothing very new or original about updating the setting of Rigoletto. It is indeed a welcome surprise occasionally to see it in settings which the composer, librettist or Victor Hugo (who wrote the original play) might have recognised. Of the updatings I have seen the most convincing by far was that by Jonathan Miller for English National Opera, whose very precisely depicted New York mafia setting allowed very exact equivalents for the characters and situations of the drama. The present version, first seen in Sydney Opera House in 1991, also makes use of a mafia background but in this case the Rome of the films of Fellini. It too is generally convincing although at times the updating seems to engender almost desperation in the director, for example in the car which Rigoletto uses to get to Sparafucile’s Inn. Overall, though, it is better by far than most modern productions I have seen which are neither believable nor interesting.
This may seem no more than faint praise, but I have to admit to having found much of the performance adequate rather than inspired. Alan Opie is a very experienced artist in the title role, but until the last Act there is a lack of individuality or especial insight in his singing. There is little for the audience to be able to feel sympathy and understanding with the character which is so essential for a really moving performance. This in turn throws more weight onto Emma Matthews to engage the audience’s feelings; fortunately she does this through her much more individual performance and wonderfully assured singing. That is the best reason for seeing this performance although the full-throated approach of Paul O’Neill is also just right for his role. The rest are generally adequate although David Parkin lacks the gravity that a properly sinister Sparafucile needs. Giovanni Reggioli keeps things generally together without displaying any great feeling for Verdi’s phrases or rhythms.
I assume that the filming follows the stage production in the darkness of much of the action. Although it was apparently filmed at a single performance there is little sense of the theatre and few clues as to the presence of an audience except at the end of acts. Overall this is probably best classed as a good routine performance, but with a heavy emphasis on the word “good”. Whilst apart from Emma Matthews’ performance it lacks any especially individual reason to see it, the lack of any of the inadequate performances or insensitive director’s ideas that spoil some other versions in the catalogue would make it a safe recommendation for anyone unfamiliar with the opera.
John Sheppard
Adequate rather than inspired.