This performance of Rigoletto ended even more abruptly than is usually the case. As Dimitri Platanias sang out Rigoletto’s despairing cry, the lights went up, a stage-manager walked on and asked us to calmly leave the building owing to a security alert. No chance for that final cathartic release of suspense, but credit to the Royal Opera House staff for managing the situation so well, and to the performers for delivering a thrilling performance to that point.
David McVicar’s staging, with Michael Vale’s imposing and claustrophobic designs, wears its years well. The lighting is perhaps over-sombre – one needs to see more of the facial expressions of the protagonists. Perhaps the libertine excesses of the Duke’s court are overplayed, especially in Act Two, but they make the point about the worlds the characters inhabit well enough. One of the effects is to make the Duke seem even less sympathetic than is often the case – only in ‘Parmi veder le lagrime’ do we see a remotely likeable character. Michael Fabiano gave a super rendition of that aria, sung in meltingly quiet fashion and superb technique. Elsewhere he was up to form, delivering his contributions in a stylish and full-bodied way.
However, Rigoletto is really about the baritone and his interactions with Gilda and Sparafucile. Platanias has sung the role in this staging before, but here his singing and depth of characterisation have developed enormously, and his vocal control was exemplary. The duet with Andrea Mastroni’s cavern-voiced Sparafucile was thrilling and chilling in equal measure – two singers at their peak – and with Lucy Crowe’s Gilda, she and Platanias were a great partnership. Again in Act Two there were some treasurable moments – Crowe’s Padre, in voi parla un angelo per me consolotar (Father, through you a consoling angel speaks) really emphasised that, and Platanias had indeed just done that to perfection!
There was also fantastic support from the luscious voice of Nadia Krasteva as a voluptuous Maddalena, a sonorous Monterone from Darren Jeffery and an effectively enigmatic portrayal of Giovanna from Kathleen Wilkinson. The ROH Orchestra was on top from under the assured Alexander Joel. The lower strings had the necessary prominence and responded in wonderfully warm measure. This performance had pace and drama at every turn, and the off-stage banda and vocal effects were effectively handled – super choral singing at that moment, all part of a very strong revival.
- Performances until January 18, some with alternative casts
- Royal Opera House www.roh.org.uk