Review: Rigoletto makes a grand entrance at the Royal Opera House.
The Royal Opera House has returned in splendid style, performing Verdi’s most dramatic opera to a full house after 18 months either in total lockdown or, more recently, playing to a restricted, socially distant audience.
The occasion deserved something spectacular, and this new Rigoletto production delivered flawlessly. Oliver Mears, the ROH’s new overall Director of Opera, gave a confident and highly effective performance that exemplified what a good director should contribute to a classic like this.
We’ve seen directors try too hard to offer something distinct to an opera, rather than destroying the composer and librettist’s original intentions by pushing too much of their views into it, even at the ROH.
Mears provided lots of things to look at and consider, but the impact was to emphasize and enrich the original rather than to detract from it.
This opera has a violent and melancholy plot. Rigoletto is the court jester of the Duke of Mantua’s court. The Duke is a misogynistic womanizer who enjoys seducing his courtiers’ wives before growing tired of them and moving on to another woman.
There is a more vicious side to his temperament as well, which Mears demonstrates in terrible form when the Duke blinds Count Monterone for offending him.
Monterone retaliates by cursing both the Duke and Rigoletto, who had humiliated him, and the opera’s plot revolves around the fulfillment of this curse.
Despite his profession as a comic, Rigoletto has an awful personality. His love for his daughter Gilda is the sole sweetness in his life.
However, while his heart is in the right place when it comes to Gilda, his parenting abilities are lacking, as he keeps her locked up at home to protect her from the brutal world outside, only letting her out on Sundays to go to church.
She meets the villainous Duke, who is dressed as an impoverished student, and falls in love with him there.
To add to the confusion, the Duke’s courtiers learn that Rigoletto is hiding a lovely young woman whom they mistake for his mistress, so they kidnap her.
The Duke seduces Gilda toward the end of the story. “Brinkwire News in Condensed Form.”