VOCALLY SUPERB, RIVETING THEATRE
by Giuseppe Verdi
directed by Lindy Hume
Conductor: Wyn Davies
NBR New Zealand Opera
at St James Theatre, Wellington
From 19 May 2012 to 26 May 2012
Reviewed by John Button, 21 May 2012
originally published in The Dominion Post
It is now nearly eight years since Rigoletto was last experienced in Wellington, and this is, by my count, the fifth production seen in Wellington since the 1970s. Thus, Verdi's controversial opera based on Victor Hugo's play Le Roi s'amuse, could be said to be part of our opera culture, so when an audience, carrying memories of previous productions, cheers the opening night to the echo, you know something special is on offer.
Like the splendid 2004 production, this production had a modern setting, but one focussed on a mafia style hierarchy living in decadent opulence and supported by all parts of society ( witness the prominent cardinal amongst the fawning courtiers), and tinged with a really sinister air.
Directed with superb assurance by Lindy Hume within a marvellous, endlessly clever, set designed by Richard Roberts, and atmospherically lit by Jason Morphett, the stage is set for the fine cast.
Vocally, this is almost certainly the best Rigoletto we have heard. The cast is astonishingly accomplished right down to the smallest part, and the male chorus is a miracle of dramatic precision.
The support singing of Rodney Macann as Monterone and Ashraf Sewailam as the assassin Sparafucile would be hard to better, both vocally and dramatically, and the even smaller roles were a crucial part of this rivetting piece of theatre.
But it is the three principals that set this production apart. Tenor Rafael Rojas and baritone Warwick Fyfe as The Duke of Mantua and Roigoletto respectively, renew their partnership from last years I Pagliacci, to even greater effect. What a marvellously self indulgent Duke we heard from Rojas, and what a splendidly confident, ringing, tenor voice he has. He suited the opulent setting of the opening to perfection - and wouldn't devotees of the SoHo channel just love that opening scene!
Warwick Fyfe has a voice that is scarcely less impressive, and he points the double standards that is at the heart of Rigoletto's character to perfection. And as his daughter Gilda, Emma Pearson is near perfection. She is a most dramatically believable ingenue, topped with a wonderful voice; I thought that Maria Constanza Nocentini was superlative in negotiating the coloratura of Caro Nome in 2004, but here, Pearson trumps her with a miracle of accurate vocalism.
Underpinning all this was the taut, expressive, playing of the Vector Wellington Orchestra under the knowing hand of Wyn Davies.
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See also reviews by:
William Dart (New Zealand Herald);