In this 2011 production of Verdi’s Rigoletto, Elijah Moshinsky references the period of Fellini’s classic movie La dolce vita (1960), which set the tone of the decade to follow. Inevitably the result has similarities with Jonathan Miller’s long-running Little Italy staging, though its stagecraft is not so surefooted. Who the Duke actually is, for example, and why he should have a clown in his employment, are not made clear. In wider visual terms Michael Yeargan’s designs register effectively on DVD but come up especially well on Blu-ray.
During the prelude Alan Opie’s sad clown goes through the motions of donning his make-up, like Canio in Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci. At the end of the opening scene, David Parkin’s Sparafucile bursts through a costume rail in Rigoletto’s dressing room to tender his murderous services; the scene then moves without a break to the street outside Rigoletto’s house.
Alan Opie was apparently unwell during the 2010 run, perhaps inhibiting a performance that neither rises to the heights of the role nor to the baritone’s considerable capabilities. As the Duke, Paul O’Neill sings ably though his dramatic presentation is dull. Emma Matthews’s Gilda is far more consistent; she sings with keen technical aplomb and manages the tricky task of playing a character whose innocence proves a terrible vulnerability. There’s a disappointingly weak Monterone from Gennadi Dubinsky, though Elizabeth Campbell, in a neat double act, successfully transforms herself from a frumpy Giovanna into a sexually knowing Maddalena. David Parkin’s Sparafucile is excellent all round. Giovanni Reggioli is the decent conductor.