Some Pleasing Voices in an Otherwise Unmemorable Staging of Rigoletto

06/03/2018

Verdi, Rigoletto: Frankfurter Opern- und Museumorchester, Oper Frankfurt Chorus / Simone di Felice (conductor), Opernhaus, Frankfurt, 4.3.2018. (JMI)

Oper Frankfurt’s Rigoletto © M. Rittershaus

Cast:

Rigoletto – Franco Vassallo
Gilda – Sydney Mancasola
Duke of Mantua – Francesco Demuro
Sparafucile – Daniel Miroslaw
Maddalena – Katharina Magiera
Monterone – Magnús Baldvinsson
Marullo – Iurii Samoilov
Giovanna – Nina Tarandek
Count Ceprano – Iain MacNeil
Countess Ceprano – Bianca Andrew
Borsa – Michael McCown

Production: Frankfurt Opera

Director – Hendrik Müller
Sets – Rifail Ajdarpasic
Costumes – Katharina Weissenborn
Lighting – Jan Hartmann

This new production by Hendrik Müller, which premiered in Frankfurt last spring, is the first work by him that I have seen. He appears to be one of those directors who feel obliged to be original, whether or not the interpretation has much to do with the opera itself.

Thus, in a prelude, we first meet Rigoletto (an ex-priest?) in front of an altar, taking a host and eating it before leaving for the palace of the Duke. Going forward, there is basically one stage for the entire opera, with Gothic arches and discotheque-type cages. Violence prevails here, especially with regard to the Cepranos – she is struck by her husband, and always wears dark glasses and walks with a cane. The lights are turned off, and then it is the second scene, where Sparafucile appears on stage. He does not come alone, but is accompanied by his sister, Maddalena; one is not sure what she is doing there. Rigoletto’s house is a cubicle that descends from the heights; Gilda’s room is replete with crosses, and there is an attractive young Giovanna present.

In Act II Gilda is in the palace and is now wearing an elegant dress that has nothing to do with what she wore at her kidnapping. Rigoletto enters, accompanied by a series of characters who seem to represent virgins and saints, beginning with Christ himself. In Sparafucile’s house, which is also a mobile element, lives a group of clowns. The scene of Gilda’s stabbing is somewhat absurd – she had been singing with her assassins for a while. Finally, the troupe of clowns carries the corpse of Gilda to Rigoletto, but then she gets up and sings the final bars while walking backwards off the stage. It is not clear if she was heading to Verona or to a better life.

Rigoletto was played by baritone Franco Vassallo whose performance was on a par with what I have seen and heard from him in the past. His voice is suited to the role, but he shouts, as he were afraid of not being heard. Rigoletto is a part that demands more than a strong voice.

Soprano Sydney Mancasola as Gilda did nicely in the role, with a light and attractive voice that is well-suited to the demands of the character. However, her top notes are somewhat tight.

The Duke of Mantua was played by Francesco Demuro; he replaced Mario Chang, who had fallen ill at the last minute. He was the best singer of the three leads. His voice is not large, but he sang the aria ‘Parmi veder le lagrime’ with gusto, finishing with the subsequent cabaletta. He was more appropriate than bright in ‘La donna è mobile’.

Daniel Miroslaw was unremarkable as Sparafucile, while Katharina Magiera was satisfactory as Maddalena, as was Iurii Samoilov as Marullo. Magnús Baldvinsson, a correct Monterone, seemed to have been resurrected for the second act after being shot in Act I. Nina Tarandek was good as the sexy Giovanna, and Iain MacNeil did well as Count Ceprano, as did Bianca Andrew, who doubled as Countess Ceprano and the Page (although for this character’s brief appearance she was still characterized as Countess Ceprano). Michael McCown was a fitting Borsa.

The musical direction was entrusted to Simone Di Felice, who conducts frequently in Frankfurt. His reading was not particularly convincing: the tempos were quite slow and it was all too loud. Both the orchestra and the chorus were impressive.

José M. Irurzun

For more about Oper Frankfurt click here.

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