Chișinău National Opera at Regent Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent – Verdi’s Rigoletto

Rigoletto – Opera in three Acts to a libretto by Francesco Maria Piave after Victor Hugo’s play Le roi s’amuse [sung in Italian with English surtitles]

Duke of Mantua – Giorgio Meladze
Rigoletto – Vladimir Dragos
Gilda – Maria Tonina
Count Monterone – Iurie Maimescu
Count Ceprano – Tudor Donos
Countess Ceprano – Irina Melnic
Marullo – Stefan Donos
Borsa – Ruslan Pacatovici
Sparafucile – Iurie Maimescu
Maddalena – Zarui Vardanean
Giovanna – Zarui Vardanean
Page – Tatiana Chitoraga

Chișinău National Opera & Ballet Theatre
Nicolae Dohotaru

Ellen Kent – Director
Nadejda Shvets – Set Designer
Valeris Cucarschi – Lighting Designer

Reviewed by: Chris Caspell

Reviewed: 8 April, 2015
Venue: Regent Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, England

Chișinău National Opera's production of Verdi's RigolettoPhotograph: www.ellenkent.comAvoiding the arguably-unnecessary re-setting of opera remains a cornerstone of an Ellen Kent production. No Victoriana for this Rigoletto (as in Christopher Alden’s direction for ENO), nor the bleakness found in Pierre Audi’s staging for the Vienna State Opera, but something opulent and visually stunning that tries nothing new and does so rather well.

The lavish party at the ducal palace positively bubbled with lavishness with two greyhounds (Danny and Monty), topless “Duke’s women” and a nude “Monterone’s daughter” – only outdone by Nabucco the golden eagle – all listed as extras in the programme. Such additions sadly did not translate into extra “bums on seats” – naked or otherwise – as the Regent Theatre was scarcely one-third full.

Chișinău National Opera's production of Verdi's RigolettoPhotograph: www.ellenkent.comVladimir Dragos, as the jester Rigoletto, relishes his dual roles – the Duke’s confidant and fierce protector of his daughter Gilda. His gestures were grand and often so extreme that we craved subtlety. An opera with more than its fair share of duets, Dragos was a reliable partner, nowhere more noticeable than in Act Two where Rigoletto and Gilda take the lion’s share of the action. With Maria Tonina as the match was excellent and convincing; and in the final Act when Gilda dies in her father’s arms was a real tearjerker. Tonina’s voice is light, agile and full of colour with a vocal range that is wide and a palette full of nuance.

By contrast other performers did not stand up so well. Giorgio Meladze as the Duke carried off the aristocratic manner quite well but lacked the singing surety that the opening ‘Questa o quella’ needs, and ‘La donna è mobile’ (Act Three), about the fickle nature of women, was garbled. The ‘Quartet’ in that Act emphasised the disparity between Dragos and Tonina, and Meladze and Zarui Vardanean (Sparafucile’s sister Maddalena).

Nicolae Dohotaru joined Chișinău National Opera in 1989 – an experienced hand at the helm. This orchestra can be a weakness and it was no surprise when the opening contained a smattering of mistakes including fluffed notes in the brass and some intonation problems elsewhere. Once warmed up things did turn for the better though a smaller band of string-players (as here) requires first-rate instrumentalists if a full and rich sound is to be achieved.

Overall this was a performance that, though it had problems, was enjoyable.

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