Scottish Opera: Rigoletto
- Carol Main
- 23 October 2018
Troubled and disturbing ride through the tragic Italian opera
Even a glance at the printed programme cover, dark and gnarled with the deep-hued green of jealousy, gives a heads up that Matthew Richardson's 2011 production of Rigoletto, now revived with a new cast, is a troubled and disturbing ride through one of the most tragic of Italian operas. Opening to a stark, black stage, the drama to follow is immediately signalled by Verdi's richly scored first bars from the orchestra. Scene after scene things become increasingly uncomfortable in how women are objectified and portrayed as false, whether through the male chorus ballroom dancing with plastic mannequins in silk dresses, or in the words of the cheerful tune beloved by ice-cream vans and TV adverts, La donna è mobile.
Translated as 'all women are fickle', the Duke who sings it, and emerges as the sleazeball villain of the piece, is convincingly portrayed by tenor Adam Smith, making his Scottish Opera debut. Gilda, daughter of court jester Rigoletto and but one of the objects of the Duke's lustful desires, is a vocally soaring and vibrant innocent in Lina Johnson's spot on tragic heroine who meets her death in order to save that of the Duke's. Rigoletto himself, Greek baritone Aris Argiris in sparkly green satin jacket, was off-kilter on opening night with a cold, but bravely persevered all three acts. Although vocally straining, dramatically he pulled off the futility of his parental over-protectiveness.
There's never much staging to set the scenes, the lack of interest in Jon Morrell's designs at times inhibiting the action. The plain pale turquoise box that is Gilda's hideaway home, for instance, did nothing to support the pacing of dramatic and musical tension as the doomed love affair is initially revealed. Under conductor Rumon Gamba, the company's own male chorus and orchestra were in top form throughout.
Reviewed on Thu 18 Oct, Theatre Royal, Glasgow. Wed 24 and Sat 27 Oct, Theatre Royal, Glasgow; Fri 9, Sun 11, Thu 15, Sat 17 Nov, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh.