The Royal Opera – Rigoletto [Gavanelli & Sadovnikova]

Rigoletto – Melodramma in three acts to a libretto by Francesco Maria Piave after the tragedy Le Roi s’amuse by Victor Hugo [sung in Italian with English surtitles]

Duke of Mantua – Wookyung Kim
Matteo Borsa – Iain Paton
Count Ceprano – Lukas Jakobski
Countess Ceprano – Louise Armit
Rigoletto – Paolo Gavanelli
Count Monterone – Michael Druiett
Sparafucile – Raymond Aceto
Gilda – Ekaterina Sadovnikova
Giovanna – Elizabeth Sikora
Maddalena – Daniela Innamorati

Royal Opera Chorus

Orchestra of the Royal Opera House
Dan Ettinger

David McVicar – Director
Leah Hausman – Revival Director & Movement Director
Michael Vale – Set designs
Tanya McCallin – Costume designs
Paule Constable – Lighting design

Reviewed by: Kevin Rogers

Reviewed: 21 October, 2010
Venue: The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London

Peter Reed reviewed the opening night of this latest run of “Rigoletto” (all dedicated to Dame Joan Sutherland, who sang her first Gilda for The Royal Opera in 1957) when Dmitri Hvorostovsky and Patrizia Ciofi were the father-daughter pair. While agreeing with his assessment of the staging as revived by Leah Hausman, at this production’s last revival I found it wonderfully dark, depraved and bleak. Whilst these elements simmer away, on this particular outing it was rather restrained.

Paolo Gavanelli as Rigoletto (Royal Opera, February 2009). Photograph: Clive Barda Two changes of cast for this performance (and a few more) found the Italian baritone Paolo Gavanelli as the Mantuan jester, and his daughter was the Russian soprano Ekaterina Sadovnikova, in a notable Royal Opera debut. Gavanelli is an experienced Rigoletto – he created the role for this production back in 2001 – and boy did it show. He does not have the lyrical beauty of some interpreters but what he brought was the weight of the world that compels him to be forever protective of his beautiful daughter.

Gavanelli’s visceral baritone coloured his delivery with unexpected distinction. The layers of sarcasm in his opening remarks were thickly applied, and his mock imitation of Count Monterone was devilish. This was a complete account: firm and blackly comic to begin, then tender with his daughter (such heroic feelings), moving to a frenzied delirium at the prospect of avenging his daughter’s abduction, to finally a pathetic and broken man cradling his dead Gilda – a towering account.

Sadovnikova’s performance made for a great pairing with Gavanelli. Her soprano was clean – in thrilling contrast to Gavanelli – and pure, and explored Verdi’s score with lyricism; this is a talent to listen out for. As the decadent Duke (a role Plácido Domingo sang only three times, he disliked it so much) Wookyung Kim returned, and he still gives a tame account. The notes are mostly there, but he struggled singing very quietly.

The assassin was Raymond Aceto, a ruthless creation, made vicious through this singer’s deportment. Similarly, the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House was on fighting form under Dan Ettinger, who produced an urgent account of the music: thrilling. Otherwise I direct you to Mr Reed’s comments.

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