Rigoletto at the English National Opera
An old friend is back.
To see Jonathan Miller’s Rigoletto return to the stage was a great comfort. It has been intelligently revived by Elaine Tyler-Hall and the sets (particularly the art deco at the beginning of Act I and in Act II) as well as the bar scene in Act III are clear, precise and still very relevant today. There was some great action, particularly the jukebox scene as the Duke was singing his great aria ‘La donna e mobile’ with the jukebox (or Duke box!) needing to be kicked to start it.
Musically, this performance was somewhat of a curate’s egg. The conductor, Sir Richard Armstrong, pushed the performance at a real pace, giving it energy and vitality, but unfortunately missed some of the important subtleties that are required to help the singers when speed of performance is not required. The best example of this was Gilda’s aria ‘Caro Nome’ Act I Scene II, where the pace was so quick that Gilda was at times not given the chance to breathe in order to show off the considerable vocal skills that she possessed. He was lucky to have a quality cast of American singers.
The Duke was sung by Joshua Guerrero, who is at the beginning of his operatic career and is an alumnus of the Domingo young artists program at L.A. Opera. He possesses a robust tenor voice, easily reaching the heights required for this role and will undoubtedly have a huge career ahead of him. The same can be said for the baritone of Nicholas Pallesen, who is also an award winner and Met Opera finalist. This is his first Rigoletto and is to a degree a work in progress as it will undoubtedly mature over the years in subtlety. He has the vocal heft and quality for the role with a very occasional nasally sound, but movingly portrayed a father’s anguish when losing his daughter, Gilda. She was sung by the soprano, Sydney Mancasola, who was the outstanding performer on the night. Another Met Opera grand finalist, giving a vulnerable performance in Act I, but after being deflowered in Act II, used her voice with great subtlety, coupled with surprising mid-range weight to give us an outstanding performance. Her voice shone particularly in Act III, substantially soaring above the orchestra as she sacrificed her life for that of the Duke. She is currently in the solo ensemble at Frankfurt Opera with the bass, Barnaby Rea, a former Harewood artist, who sang a wholehearted dark rendition of Sparafucile, who’s sister, Maddalena, was substantially sung by the British mezzo soprano, Madeleine Shaw.
It was wonderful to see an old friend back and to present to the audience such a vibrant performance.
With kind regards,
Thursday, 2 February 2017