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It is hard to see this production without thinking of Dmitri Hvorostovsky. Rigoletto may not have been the foremost role of the Russian baritone, who died in London last month aged just 55, but he sang it here several times, and an echo of his elegant singing hangs in the air.
The opening night of this revival was dedicated to him. It is a sturdy show, not especially moving, but offering a direct and uncontroversial presentation of Verdi’s drama, well sung by the three principals.
Given the nonstop run of news stories about sexual abuse, it cannot be long before Rigoletto is given the full updated treatment. David McVicar’s 2001 production keeps Verdi’s Duke of Mantua firmly at home in the Renaissance, presiding over a licentious court and much flagrant victimisation of women. The opening orgy is even more crudely overdone than it was originally. The look of the production, grungy and gloomily lit, remains oppressively atmospheric.
It fits that Dimitri Platanias plays Rigoletto as an old-fashioned bruiser, downtrodden, resentful, pugnacious. His strong baritone is welcome back in the role, which he sang in 2012, as is his ever-vigilant care for Verdi’s vocal lines, but he rarely suggests the inner nobility of spirit that should make Rigoletto superior to his betters. His new Gilda is Russian soprano Sofia Fomina, who is a touch stiff physically, but her silvery soprano shines nicely, especially when the flutter in her voice goes away. Their scenes together, though, miss any personal chemistry. Michael Fabiano is the most striking, singing with an all-out, extrovert, ringing fervour that brings the Duke of Mantua vividly to life. His tendency to over-sing becomes part of the character.
A formidable duo lurks in Mantua’s underworld in the form of Andrea Mastroni’s assassin Sparafucile and his sister accomplice, Nadia Krasteva’s Maddalena. James Rutherford is the imposing Monterone, Sarah Pring an effective Giovanna and the Jette Parker Young Artists field several smaller roles, headed by Dominic Sedgwick as Marullo and Simon Shibambu as Count Ceprano. The performance does not hang around. Alexander Joel conducts with a keen sense of pacing and a light, well-sprung style that makes a nice change.
To January 16, roh.org.uk
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