Rigoletto at the London Coliseum
Jealousy and revenge are the main themes of this moving and dramatic opera by Verdi. When Rigoletto’s daughter is seduced by the nefarious Duke, his master, Rigoletto plans vengeance. As might be expected of a Verdi work, however, all does not end well for the man and his daughter, but the Duke walks away scot-free. It’s a classic example of women, the poor and the ugly being punished, while the rich and wealthy breeze through life without compunction.
This production by Jonathan Miller is being revived for the 13th time, and although it might have lost its original cutting-edge status, it still packs a punch. Written in 1851, Verdi chose to set his opera anachronistically in the 16th century. Miller opts instead for setting the work in 1950s New York, amongst the Mafia mob of Little Italy. It’s an inspired choice that often rings true, from the old man’s curse (complete with Sicilian thumb-biting) to the Duke’s casual attitude towards women.
The swanky bar provides a backdrop for some stunning set pieces, while the grimy street outside highlights the fine line between glamour and squalor, heroic love and sordid revenge. The story is full of dramatic action and this production maximises its effectiveness, combining comedy and tragedy in a way that is perfectly suited to Verdi’s vision.
The lead singers are all strong and their voices well matched. In particular, Sydney Mancasola makes a star turn as Gilda, Rigoletto’s daughter. Her performance grows and evolves with her character, who goes through a fascinating transformation from innocent beauty to self-sacrificing lover. Her virtuosic voice makes a well-judged contrast with that of Nicholas Pallesen playing Rigoletto. Pallesen’s performance draws out his character’s tragic situation, as both court clown and vengeful or grieving father in a way that is both powerful and touching.
The ENO’s revival of Rigoletto is a classic production of this wonderful opera. The intelligent direction gives the music space to breathe, and the show is guaranteed to move audiences to both laughter and tears.
Photo: Alastair Muir
Rigoletto is at the London Coliseum from 10th until 28th February 2017. Book your tickets here.
Watch the trailer for Rigoletto here: