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Parma Verdi Festival 2008,  Rigoletto:  Orchestra and Chorus Teatro Regio di Parma. Conductor: Massimo Zanetti., Festival Verdi. Teatro Regio di Parma. 6.10.2008. (JMI)

Production Teatro Regio di Parma
Director: Stefano Vizioli.
Sets and Costumes. Pierluigi Samaritani.
Lighting: Franco Marri.


Rigoletto: Leo Nucci, baritone
Duca: Francescp Demuro, tenor
Gilda: Desirée Rancatore, soprano
Sparafucile: Marco Spotti, bass
Maddalena: Stefanie Irányi, mezzo
Monterone: Roberto Tagliavini, baritone

The premiere of Rigoletto at this year's  Verdi Festival, and the presence of Leo  Nucci as Rigoletto, brought spectacular media coverage from radio and television to the Regio, plus the presence of politicians and celebrities. More evidence,if it were neede that this Festival is a major event now and likely to become even more so in the future.

Teatro Regio offered a well known production, with stage direction by Stefano Vizioli and beautiful sets by Pierluigi Samaritani. This production has probably been in existence for more than 20 years and, if I am not mistaken, Alfredo Kraus sang in it as the Duke.

This is the complete opposite of ‘Eurotrash’ theatre work. Samaritani’s sets and costumes are beautiful and in the most classical tradition of this opera. The first act stresses the  licentious court of Mantua, showing young girls entertaining the courtiers. Rigoletto’s house is a room without great pretensions. The last act is the best of the production, presented as it is on two different levels. (The production has many points in common with the one from Otto Schenk at the Met). Franco Marri’s lighting also deserves special mention.

In summary, this is a production in the purest tradition, somehow old fashioned, if you like to put it that way, but well received by the audience. Vizioli’s direction is excellent, and he presented the relationship between Sparafucile and Maddalena as lovers more than brother and sister, as Emilio Sagi did in Bilbao.

Massimo Zanetti was in charge of the musical direction and he was more effective than sparkling. There were some erratic tempos and  volumes that were generally too loud from an otherwise excellent orchestra. Zanetti chose to use the rarely heard cadenza at the end of the duet between the Duke and Gilda: this isdifficult to sing and gave the tenor some problems.

At 66,
Leo Nucci  demonstrated once more that he has as yet no rival in the role of Rigoletto. His voice continues to be a miracle of youth and freshness, only comparable to that of Plácido Superman. Nucci dominates the role like no other singer today, offering outstanding nuances in his interpretation. It is true that at some moments one notices the passage of time, but still he continues to be Rigoletto by antonomasia, so to speak.  As a long tradition in Italy, he had to reprisethe duet of the “Vendetta”, and even then there were people in the audience shouting for one more; which Nucci refused with a smile.

The young tenor Francesco Demuro was rather a disappointment as the Duke. No doubt he is  very promising with a gorgeous voice, but I do not believe that he is yet ready to face such an important event as the premiere of Rigoletto at the Verdi Festival. I have the impression that  nerves betrayed him to some extent, but the truth is that his voice was too small for the role on this occasion. He has to mature more, but I am firmly convinced that he shows major promise. Within his limits, he was good in the aria, had serious problems in finishing the caballeta and his “La donna é mobile” was not particularly brilliant. He was at his best in the beautiful quartet “Bella figlia dell’amore”, where his voice was much richer, as if  he felt free of pressure. I would like to see him again soon in other circumstances before drawing any final conclusions.

Desiree Rancatore was an outstanding but perhaps still a a slightly inadeqaute Gilda, depending on what one asks of the character. She is a light soprano, who had her best moment in “Caro Nome”. In my experience, the soprano who shines in this aria will be disappointing afterwards and this is what happened here. After a correct “Tutte le feste al tempio” she became too light  voiced for the  La Vendetta duet and the last act. I prefer a different kind of soprano for Gilda, even if the fireworks of “Caro Nome” are not so great.

Marco Spotti was an excellent Sparafucile. This young singer has become the best Italian bass of his generation. Stefanie Irányi was a more convincing Maddalena as an actor than as a singer and Roberto Tagliavini was a very good Monterone. Hehas a bright future ahead
of him.

There was a packed house and a great success for Leo Nucci, with Rancatore also receiving a very warm reception.

Jose M.Irurzun

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