Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Così fan tutte at Covent Garden

Desire and deception; Amor and artifice. In Jan Philipp Gloger’s new production of Così van tutte at the Royal Opera House, the artifice is of the theatrical, rather than the human, kind. And, an opera whose charm surely lies in its characters’ amiable artfulness seems more concerned to underline the depressing reality of our own deluded faith in human fidelity and integrity.

Plácido Domingo as Macbeth, LA Opera

On September 22, 2016, Los Angeles Opera presented Darko Tresnjak’s production of Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Macbeth. Verdi and Francesco Maria Piave based their opera on Shakespeare’s play of the same name.

The Rake’s Progress: an Opera for Our Time

On September 18th, at a casual Sunday matinee, Pacific Opera Project presented a surprising choice for a small company. It was Igor Stravinsky’s 1951 three act opera, The Rake’s Progress. It’s a piece made for today's supertitles with its exquisitely worded libretto by W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman.

Classical Opera: Haydn's La canterina

We are nearing the end of Classical Opera’s MOZART 250 sojourn through 1766, a year that the company’s artistic director Ian Page admits was ‘on face value … a relatively fallow year’. I’m not so sure: Jommelli’s Il Vogoleso, performed at the Cadogan Hall in April, was a gem. But, then, I did find the repertoire that Classical Opera offered at the Wigmore Hall in January, ‘worthy rather than truly engaging’ (review). And, this programme of Haydn and his Czech contemporary Josef Mysliveček was stylishly executed but did not absolutely convince.

Dream of the Red Chamber in San Francisco

Globalization finds its way ever more to San Francisco Opera where Italian composer Marco Tutino’s La Ciociara saw the light of day in 2015 and now, 2016, Chinese composer Bright Sheng’s Dream of the Red Chamber has been created.

San Diego Opera Opens with Recital by Piotr Beczala

Renowned Polish tenor Piotr Beczala and well-known collaborative pianist Martin Katz opened the San Diego Opera 2016–2017 season with a recital at the Balboa Theater on Saturday, September 17th.

Andrea Chénier at San Francisco Opera

San Francisco Opera makes occasional excursions into the operatic big-time, such just now was Giordano’s blockbuster Andrea Chénier, last seen at the War Memorial 23 years ago (1992) and even then after a hiatus of 17 years (1975).

A rousing I due Foscari at the Concertgebouw

There is no reason why, given the right performers, second-tier Verdi can’t be a top-tier operatic experience, as was the case with this concert version of I Due Foscari.

A double dose of Don Quixote at the Wigmore Hall

Since their first appearance in Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra’s literary master-piece, during the Spanish Golden Age, the ingenuous and imaginative knight-errant, Don Quixote, and his loyal subordinate and squire, Sancho Panza, have touched the creative imagination of composers from Salieri to Strauss, Boismortier to Rodrigo.

Bampton Classical Opera: A double bill of divine comedies

Bampton Classical Opera’s 2016 double-bill ‘touched down’ at St John’s Smith Square last night, following performances in The Deanery Garden at Bampton and The Orangery of Westonbirt School earlier this summer.

Mahler’s Second, Concertgebouw

Daniele Gatti opened the first series of Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra’s season with a slightly uneven performance of Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony. With four planned, this staple repertoire for the RCO meant to introduce Gatti to the RCO subscribers.

Mad About San Jose’s Lucia

Opera San Jose opened a commendably impassioned Lucia di Lammermoor that sets the company’s bar very high indeed as it begins its new season.

ROH, Norma

The approach of the 2016-17 opera season has brought rising anticipation and expectation for the ROH’s new production - the first at Covent Garden for almost 30 years - of Bellini’s bel canto master-piece, Norma.

The Changing of the Guard

Last June, Riccardo Chailly led the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra in Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion for his last concert as Principal Conductor.

Morgen und Abend at Berlin

After its world premiere at Royal Opera House in London last year, the German première of Georg Friedrich Haas’s Morgen und Abend took place at the Deutsche Oper Berlin.

Der Freischütz at Unter den Linden

Rarely have I experienced such fabulous singing in such a dreadful production. With magnificent voices, Andreas Schager and Dorothea Röschmann rescued Michael Thalheimer’s grotesque staging of von Weber’s Der Freischütz. At Staatsoper Unter den Linden, Alexander Soddy led a richly detailed, transparent and brilliantly glowing Berliner Staatskapelle.

Prom 74: Verdi's Requiem

For the penultimate BBC Prom at the Royal Albert Hall on Friday 9 September 2016, Marin Alsop conducted the BBC Youth Choir and Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in Verdi's Requiem with soloists Tamara Wilson, Alisa Kolosova, Dimitri Pittas, and Morris Robinson.

British Youth Opera: English Eccentrics

“Eccentricity is not, as dull people would have us believe, a form of madness. It is often a kind of innocent pride, and the man of genius and the aristocrat are frequently regarded as eccentrics because genius and aristocrat are entirely unafraid of and uninfluenced by the opinions and vagaries of the crowd.”

Prom 68: a wonderful Semiramide

When I look back on the 2016 Proms season, this Opera Rara performance of Semiramide - the last opera that Rossini wrote for Italy - will be, alongside Pekka Kuusisto’s thrillingly free and refreshing rendition of Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto - one of the stand-out moments.

Double Bill by Oper am Rhein

Of all the places in Germany, Oper am Rhein at Theater Duisburg staged an intriguing American double bill of rarities. An experience that was well worth the trip to this desolate ghost town, remnant of industrial West Germany.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Dimitri Platanias as Rigoletto [Photo © ROH 2012 / Johan Persson]
02 Apr 2012

Rigoletto, Royal Opera House

How would a period instrument specialist like John Eliot Gardiner approach Rigoletto, Verdi’s sordid tale? This was his first Rigoletto (though not his first Verdi); but he created it with great insight.

Giuseppe Verdi: Rigoletto

Duke of Mantua: Vittorio Grigolo; Matteo Borsa: Pablo Nemsch; Count Ceprano: Jihoon Kim; Countess Ceprano: Susana Gaspar; Rigoletto: Dimitri Platanias; Marullo: Zhengzhong Zhou; Count Monterone: Gianfranco Montresor; Sparaficule: Matthew Rose; Gilda n: Ekaterina Siurina; Giovanna: Elizabeth Sikora; Page: Andrea Hazell; Usher: Nigel Cliffe; Maddalena: Christine Rice. Royal Opera Chorus. Orchestra of the Royal Opera House. Conductor John Eliot Gardiner. Stage Director David McVicar. Royal Opera House, London, 30th March 2012.

Above: Dimitri Platanias as Rigoletto

Photos © ROH 2012 / Johan Persson

 

There’s a lot to be learned from period practice, and anyone who knows it well knows how rambunctious it can be. Gardiner knows the Renaissance was violent. Verdi isn’t sentimental and the court at Mantua was cruel. This was historically-informed practice adapted to repertoire often milked for lush effect. Gardiner’s vigorous approach might not appeal to all, but it’s extremely perceptive. He makes Rigoletto raw and shocking, as it should be.

Rigoletto_ROH_2012_02.gifEkaterina Siurina as Gilda

David McVicar’s 2001 production is bleak. The ducal palace is evoked by a metallic wall — shiny but hard. Michael Vale, the designer, uses a large wooden structure that pivots like the twists in the plot, but the focus remains on the cast. Vocal performances take their cue from Gardiner and McVicar. Vittorio Grigolo bursts onto the stage in full throttle. “Questa o quella” is thrown like a gauntlet. The Duke doesn’t brook challenge. Grigolo has the power and showmanship to create the Duke, bursting with arrogant machismo. Like the Duke, he’s a force unto himself. The courtiers are a mob for whom subtlety means nothing. Grigolo’s Duke uses swagger as a weapon. The Duke’s brutishness come over well, moments of decorative richness adding a touch of devious artifice, totally in keeping with character.

Rigoletto_ROH_2012_06.gifVittorio Grigolo as Duke of Mantua

Yet Grigolo also manages to suggest the Duke’s inner fragility. With Gilda, he can play the man he might have been had he not been born to a crown. The duet with Gilda is genuinely tender. In “Ella mi fu rapita”, Grigolo let the Duke’s mask drop for a moment, singing with genuine tenderness. In many ways this is the heart of the opera for it touches on the Duke’s inner psyche. Significantly, Verdi keeps cutting “La donna è mobile” so the sections don’t connect. Gardiner emphasizes the disjoint, for by this stage, the Duke is back to his old tricks, morally disintegrating again. Grigolo is a consummate actor and creates the part with more depth than he’ll get credit for. The problem is that the Duke himself is hard to pin down.

There have been so many great Rigolettos over the years that Dimitri Platanias has a lot to live up to. This was his Covent Garden debut, though he has done the role many times elsewhere. McVicar’s concept has Rigoletto crawling like a broken spider, which is perfectly valid. Platanias is physically imposing, with a voice to match, so a different concept would perhaps suit him better. Platanias does Rigoletto’s anger rather than his anguish. His dialogues with Gilda show Rigoletto’s fatherly side, but don’t access the demented, tortured soul within. Nonetheless, he’s a good counterbalance to Grigolo’s Duke and to Matthew Rose’s Sparafucile, sung with the power of an amoral force of nature. Rose doesn’t need to invest the part with histrionics. To Sparafucile, murder is a business transaction without emotional meaning. Rose’s detachment is chilling in itself. In his exchanges with Christine Rice’s Maddalena, Rose’s sibilants cut with suppressed sexual violence. They’re not “brother and sister” in the modern sense of the term, but pimp and whore.

Rigoletto_ROH_2012_07.gifDimitri Platanias as Rigoletto and Ekaterina Siurina as Gilda

Ekaterina Siurina is an impeccable Gilda. It’s her signature role with which she debuted with Dmitri Hvorostovsky at the age of nineteen. A beautifully rounded, sensual “Caro nome” expresses the passion in Gilda’s personality, making her love for the Duke perfectly plausible. Gilda is too sheltered to articulate her feelings, but her instincts burst forth. Siurina’s clear, ringing timbre and perfect pitch make the long cadenzas bloom with promise, expressing emotions that words can’t convey. This intensity makes her sacrifice believable too. When Siurina appears dressed as a boy, her voice glows with purpose, for she’s found a way to fulfill her love in a sacrifice only a cloistered Catholic innocent might chose. Ironically, Rigoletto loses his child because she’s been brainwashed by her upbringing.

This was an extremely rewarding Rigoletto because it cuts past surface glamour and goes to the visceral drama.

The performance on 17th April will be broadcast live internationally in HD cinemas.

Anne Ozorio

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):