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Verdi Rigoletto

Marcelo Álvarez, Inva Mula, Carlos Álvarez

Orquestra Simfònica i Cor del Gran Teatre del Liceu,
Conductor Jesús López Cobos
Director Graham Vick

Set & Costume Paul Brown

Gran Teatre del Liceu, Barcelona 2004


Although Rigoletto is an opera I have seen live often, and retained it as a favourite ever since childhood, I happen not to have any recordings or videos of in our collection (save for a delightful OperaVox animated version which I admire) .

Here is another non-realistic Rigoletto which works well at home on DVD, the focus firmly on the eponymous fated victim, jester, jealous father and butt of a cruel society, deceived fatally by his daughter, his "entire family", whose sexuality is not to be denied and drives the tragedy.

The emotional impact is somehow stronger for the abandonment of any gestures towards reality. Several scenes are uncommonly convincing as staged, to heightened emotional effect, such as the famous last act quartet which can look very artificial by trying to be the opposite.

The opera may seem to start a little shakily before you get onto Graham Vick's wavelength and begin to appreciate his thoroughly original method - the introduction of Sparafucile seems casual and the singer's intonation disturbingly poor, but that is a fleeting gripe.

Rigoletto is as hideously ugly as any you'll have seen - and his deformed torso is stripped for us to have to confront it. Inva Mula is a particularly winning and touching Gilda, and both Alvarezs aquit themselves effectively. Musical values are generally strong and whilst it is its theatre which will attract purchasers to this DVD, the music is well served by the principals under the propulsive conducting of Jesús López Cobos.

The Monterone curse upon Rigoletto is ever present in its slow working out and the other side of the coin is the fulfillment of the prediction that the Duke would survive to continue to have a charmed life, the infatuated Gilda becoming the instrument to make that happen in the "sack" scene which leaves Rigoletto alone in the dark until the final reprise of La donna è mobile. The chorus of courtiers represents the heartless cruelty of society, which we implicitly share, their voyeurism (like ours) denoted by some of them sitting on a row of theatre seats whilst indulging in their ridicule of the professional jester.

There are several original touches; There are some arresting actions around an ubiquitous armchair, Rigoletto somersaulting as he is tipped out, with athletic skill unusual in older opera stars. The chorus of courtiers is well directed to painful effect. At one point they taunted Rigoletto from a row of theatre seats, pointing to our voyeurism equally as as theirs. Marcello Alvarez's mocking wooing of the prostitute Maddalena is done with over-the-top undisguised insincerity which captivates her and leads towards the exchange of murder victims. The dying Gilda is tumbled out of the same armchair, which features throughout, and there may have been some bruises during rehearsals.

Nothing quite as you have usually seen it.





Peter Grahame Woolf