Varduhi Abrahamyan as Maddalena, Piotr Beczała as the Duke of Mantua, Andrea Mastroni as Sparafucile, Quinn Kelsey as Rigoletto, and Rosa Feola as Gilda in Verdi's "Rigoletto." Photo: Ken Howard / Met Opera

The Metropolitan Opera – Bartlett Sher’s production of Verdi’s Rigoletto – Quinn Kelsey, Piotr Beczała, Rosa Feola, Varduhi Abrahamyan and Andrea Mastroni; conducted by Daniele Rustioni

Verdi
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 Met Titles in English, German, Spanish and Italian]

Rigoletto – Quinn Kelsey
Duke of Mantua – Piotr Beczała
Gilda – Rosa Feola
Maddelena – Varduhi Abrahamyan
Sparafucile – Andrea Mastroni
Monterone – Craig Colclough
Giovanna – Eve Gigliotti
Marullo – Jeongcheol Cha
Borsa – Scott Scully
Count Ceprano – Christopher Job
Countess Ceprano – Sylvia D’Eramo

The Metropolitan Opera Chorus
The Orchestra of the Metropolitan Opera
Daniele Rustioni

Bartlett Sher – Production
Michael Yeargen – Set Designer
Catherine Zuber – Costume Designer
Donald Holder – Lighting Designer


Reviewed by: Susan Stempleski

Reviewed: 31 December, 2021
Venue: Metropolitan Opera House, Lincoln Center, New York City

The Met Opera welcomes 2022 with the arrival of Bartlett Sher’s production of Rigoletto, which began life at the Staatsoper Berlin in June of 2019. In Sher’s staging the action of has been relocated to Weimar-era Germany. The most obvious reference to this is the scrim greeting audience members as they take their seats. It displays an enlarged detail from George Grosz’s 1917 Expressionistic painting ‘Metropolis’ depicting the Berlin of World War I – an apocalyptic vision of a frenzied society rushing headlong toward self-destruction, not unlike the violent and lecherous court of the Duke of Mantua. When the scrim lifts, the bulk of Michael Yeargen’s set-design is revealed to be an elaborate Art Deco style ballroom, set on a turntable which later revolves to reveal Rigoletto’s modest house, Sparafucile’s tavern, and other images. Catherine Zuber’s elegant costumes for the opening ball scene, with the women decked out in jewels and clinging silk gowns, and the men in uniforms festooned with gold epaulettes and military medals, lend an added touch of spectacle.    

As the hunchback Rigoletto, Quinn Kelsey delivers the evening’s most memorable singing and acting. With his commanding, rich-toned baritone, he easily navigates the vocal and dramatic challenges to offer a profoundly moving portrayal of a man tormented by the dueling elements of good and evil in his nature. The greatest strength in his highly nuanced portrayal is that of the widowed jester’s total devotion to his daughter, vividly conveyed in his tearful Act Two aria, ‘Cortigiani, vil razza dannata’, in which he falls to his knees and pleads with the courtiers to give him back his beloved Gilda, and in his tortured shout of ‘Ah, la maledizione’ which brings down the final curtain.

As Gilda, the loving daughter Rigoletto has kept secluded in their home, Rosa Feola, with her splendid stage presence and dazzling soprano, is mesmerizing. Her expressive, full-bodied voice with its elegant legato is a superb match for Kelsey’s equally evocative instrument. One of the many highlights is their heart-wrenching Act Two scene, when – after having been kidnapped and delivered to the Duke of Mantua by his courtiers – she confesses all her fear and shame, at the same time as her father anticipates revenge. Another high point is her coloratura aria ‘Caro nome’ in which she convincingly depicts the naïvete of an innocent young woman in love. 

As the libertine Duke of Mantua, the role he took in his 2006 company debut, Piotr Beczała is more of a dashing, likeable rascal than a true villain. He has a charmingly self-assured stage presence and sings the part extremely well, his strong and lively tenor dispatching his arias – the lively ‘Questa o quella’ and ‘La donna è mobile’ – with great ease. He was at his best in ‘È il sol dell’anima’, the lyrically intense second-Act duet with Gilda, introducing himself as Gualtier Malde, a penniless student.

As Sparafucile, bass Andrea Mastroni is a stylishly sinister assassin. As Maddalena, mezzo Varduhi Abrahamyan is a voluptuous-sounding vamp. Bass-baritone Craig Colclough is an especially wild-eyed and intense Monterone, roaring passionately as he puts his curse on Rigoletto. 

The male chorus, rehearsed by Donald Palumbo, is elegant-sounding throughout, but especially articulate in ‘Scorrendo uniti remota via’, the courtiers’ report of their abduction of Gilda. And, with Daniele Rustioni in the pit, the musicians of the Met Orchestra are at their finest, producing well-balanced and dynamically varied sound.

  • Further performances on January 4, 7, 11, 15, 19, 22, 25, and 29 (matinee) 
  • A second run with a different conductor and cast scheduled for May 28 and June 1, 4, 8 and 11. 
  • The January 29 performance will be broadcast live beginning at 1pm Eastern Time via the Toll Brothers–Metropolitan Opera International Radio Network.

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