Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Il turco in Italia at the Aix Festival

Twenty years ago stage director Christopher Alden introduced Rossini’s then forgotten comedy to Southern California audiences in a production that is still remembered. In Aix Alden has revisited this complex work that many critics now consider Rossini’s greatest comedy.

First Night of the BBC Proms : Elgar The Kingdom

The BBC Proms 2014 season began with Sir Edward Elgars The Kingdom (1903-6). It was a good start to the season,which commemorates the start of the First World War. From that perspective Sir Andrew Davis's The Kingdom moved me deeply.

Le nozze di Figaro, Munich

One is unlikely to come across a cast of Figaro principals much better than this today, and the virtues of this performance indeed proved to be primarily vocal.

Winterreise and Trauernacht at the Aix Festival

That’s A Winter’s Journey and A Night of Mourning for metteurs-en-scène William Kentridge (South Africa) and Katie Mitchell (Great Britain), completing the clean sweep of English language stage directors for the Aix Festival productions this year.

James Gilchrist at Wigmore Hall

Assured elegance, care and thoughtfulness characterised tenor James Gilchrist’s performance of Schubert’s Schwanengesang at the Wigmore Hall, the cycles’ two poets framing a compelling interpretation of Beethoven’s An die ferne Geliebte.

Music for a While: Improvisations on Henry Purcell

‘Music for a while shall all your cares beguile.’ Dryden’s words have never seemed as apt as at the conclusion of this wonderful sequence of improvisations on Purcell’s songs and arias, interspersed with instrumental chaconnes and toccatas, by L’Arpeggiata.

Nabucco at Orange

The acoustic of the gigantic Théâtre Antique Romain at Orange cannot but astonish its nine thousand spectators, the nearly one hundred meter breadth of the its proscenium inspires awe. There was excited anticipation for this performance of Verdi’s first masterpiece.

Saint Louis: A Hit is a Hit is a Hit

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis has once again staked claim to being the summer festival “of choice” in the US, not least of all for having mounted another superlative world premiere.

La Flûte Enchantée (2e Acte)
at the Aix Festival

In past years the operas of the Aix Festival that took place in the Grand Théâtre de Provence began at 8 pm. The Magic Flute began at 7 pm, or would have had not the infamous intermittents (seasonal theatrical employees) demanded to speak to the audience.

Ariodante at the Aix Festival

High drama in Aix. Three scenarios in conflict — those of G.F. Handel, Richard Jones and the intermittents (disgruntled seasonal theatrical employees). Make that four — mother nature.

Lucy Crowe, Wigmore Hall

The programme declared that ‘music, water and night’ was the connecting thread running through this diverse collection of songs, performed by soprano Lucy Crowe and pianist Anna Tilbrook, but in fact there was little need to seek a unifying element for these eclectic works allowed Crowe to demonstrate her expressive range — and offered the audience the opportunity to hear some interesting rarities.

The Turn of the Screw, Holland Park

‘Only make the reader’s general vision of evil intense enough … and his own experience, his own imagination, his own sympathy … will supply him quite sufficiently with all the particulars.

Plenty of Va-Va-Vroom: La Fille du Regiment, Iford

It is not often that concept, mood, music and place coincide perfectly. On the first night of Opera della Luna’s La Fille du Regiment at Iford Opera in Wiltshire, England we arrived with doubts (rather large doubts it should be admitted)as to whether Donizetti’s “naive and vulgar” romp of militarism and proto-feminism, peopled with hordes of gun-toting soldiers and praying peasants, could hardly be contained, surely, inside Iford’s tiny cloister?

La finta giardiniera, Glyndebourne

‘Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,/ Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend/ More than cool reason ever comprehends.’

Sophie Karthäuser, Wigmore Hall

Belgian soprano Sophie Karthäuser has a rich range of vocal resources upon which to draw: she has power and also precision; her top is bright and glinting and it is complemented by a surprisingly full and rich lower register; she can charm with a flowing lyrical line, but is also willing to take musical risks to convey emotion and embody character.

Ariadne auf Naxos, Royal Opera

‘When two men like us set out to produce a “trifle”, it has to become a very serious trifle’, wrote Hofmannsthal to Strauss during the gestation of their opera about opera.

Leoš Janáček : The Cunning Little Vixen, Garsington Opera at Wormsley

Janáček started The Cunning Little Vixen on the cusp of old age in 1922 and there is something deeply elegiac about it.

La Traviata in Marseille

It took only a couple of years for Il trovatore and Rigoletto to make it from Italy to the Opéra de Marseille, but it took La traviata (Venice, 1853) sixteen years (Marseille, 1869).

Madama Butterfly in San Francisco

Gesamtkunstwerk, synthesis of fable, sound, shape and color in art, may have been made famous by Richard Wagner, and perhaps never more perfectly realized than just now by San Francisco Opera.

Luca Francesconi : Quartett, Linbury Studio Theatre, London

Luca Francesconi is well-respected in the avant garde. His music has been championed by the Arditti Quartett and features regularly in new music festivals. His opera Quartett has at last reached London after well-received performances in Milan and Amsterdam.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

11 May 2013

Rigoletto at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Productions of Giuseppe Verdi’s Rigoletto can serve as a vehicle for individual singers to make a strong impression and become afterward associated with specific roles in the opera.

Lyric Opera of Chicago’s recent series of Rigoletto performances featured several such opportunities. In the second half of the run Željko Lučić sang the baritone role of the jester Rigoletto with utmost dramatic conviction and vocal skills honed to match this impression. The Duke of Mantua was sung by Giuseppe Filianoti, and the part of Gilda featured the debut season of Albina Shagimuratova. Significant contributions were also provided by Andrea Silvestrelli as Sparafucile and Nicole Piccolomini as Maddalena. Evan Rogister conducted the Lyric Opera Orchestra and Ian Robertson served as Guest Chorus Master.

The sets for first scene of Act I of Lyric Opera’s Rigoletto suggested the sumptuous interior of a Renaissance court. These images would then contrast with the simplicity of Rigoletto’s home and the various architectural exteriors suggested in the second scene of Act I. The Duke’s opening song, “Questa o quella,” showed Filianoti to advantage. His top notes were secure, a smooth legato was produced effortlessly, and he expressed the word “amore” with tasteful decoration. From the start of Rigoletto’s mocking commentary directed at Count Ceprano one was struck by the resonant fullness of Lučić’s voice. His sensitivity to vocal line and its dramatic import was evident even more in his address to Count Monterone. While deriding the Count, whose daughter was defiled by the Duke, Lučić shaded his voice by means of diminuendo to heighten the comedy of his charge. As the scene at the court concluded -- and both the Duke and Rigoletto are cursed by Monterone -- the chorus was allowed overly vehement orchestral support, such that Monterone’s curse was not sufficiently audible.

In the subsequent scene en route to Rigoletto’s domestic setting Lučić communicated his character’s troubled thoughts at having been denounced at court. His vocal modulations were here extensions of an inner transformation that persisted until he encountered the assassin Sparafucile. The confrontation between both personalities was filled with tension and hints of future contact. Silvestrelli’s impressive vocal range ascended easily to top notes when identifying himself while concluding his final pitch with a chillingly deep and menacing emphasis. When Rigolettto reacts to the offer of the departing assassin, he muses on his own position of buffone as an outsider as well. As if to shake off these thoughts, Lučić proclaimed with a ringing, precise high pitch “E follia!” as he entered his domain.

The scene between father and daughter was convincingly portrayed. Ms. Shagimuratova is clearly quite comfortable in the vocal range for Gilda so that she is able to add individual touches to her interpretation. In her duet with Lučić, for example, Shagimuratova let her voice gently yet accurately touch the higher notes as her feelings grew in intensity. Rigoletto’s piano on “angelo” when recalling Gilda’s mother was matched by Shagimuratova shading her voice to a near whisper of the lyrical line on “Addio mio padre.”

Although Rigoletto had, of course, cautioned the maidservant Giovanna not to allow visitors access, she is here depicted as herself succumbing to the charms of the Duke masquerading as a student. The ensuing duet between Gilda and Gualtier Maldè, assumed name of the student, suggested the budding passion between both principals. At this point Shagimuratova sang with clear forte emphasis whereas Filianoti began to exhibit strain on the higher pitches of his part. Once they took leave with well executed final notes, Gilda was left alone to muse on her feelings in her aria “Caro nome.” Shagimuratova made of this scene a memorable showpiece. Her slightly breathless approach at the start of the aria indicated her growing infatuation with the student/Duke. The singer’s legato used through the next section of the aria suggested an unbroken, spun line, while vibrato was judiciously placed with feeling expressiveness. Shagimuratova continued the aria while lying on her back and clutching a pillow, as though reaching for an imagined beloved, just as her decoration at the close of “Caro nome” was exemplary. Gilda’s abduction was staged with minimal props, in keeping with the depiction of the locale, such that ultimate attention was focused on Rigoletto’s loss.
At the start of Act Two Filianoti gave a credible portrayal of the Duke’s personality. His lament “Parmi veder le legrime” was capped with a trill, while the joyous “Possente amor” was sung with ebullient decoration. At Rigoloetto’s entrance and his aia “Cortigiani” Lučić varied his vocal technique from earlier with ever-growing desperation. High notes were shaded piano, and “pieta” at the close was emitted as an expansive plea. The final duet with Gilda, “Tutte le feste,” showed both characters here caught in the drama and intrigue of the court while each sang from a differing emotional base.

In the final act the famous tenor aria, “La donna è mobile,” and the quartet of principals each received distinctive treatment. Filianoti sang his aria with a practiced melodic swagger and, later during the repeat, ended the aria with a falsetto pitch. In the role of Maddalena, Nicole Piccolomini sang with a riveting middle and low register, her voice penetrating throughout the quartet and in her subsequent demands to Sparafucile to spare the Duke’s life. In the final scene as staged Lučić’s Rigoletto seemed trapped by the buildings and closed doors as he held the sack with his dying daughter. His repeated pleas to the fading Gilda with variation upward in vocal line gave to the tragedy its lyrical and emotional close.

Salvatore Calomino

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):