Scottish Opera’s Rigoletto in Edinburgh

Verdi, Rigoletto : Soloists, Orchestra of Scottish Opera. Conductor: Tobias Ringborg. Edinburgh Festival Theatre, 28.5.2011 ( SRT )

Rigoletto – Eddie Wade
Duke – Edgaras Montvidas
Gilda – Nadine Livingston
Maddalena – Louise Collett
Sparafucile – Gregory Frank
Marullo – Michel de Souza
Monterone – Alan Fairs

Orchestra of Scottish Opera
The Chorus of Rigoletto
Tobias Ringborg (conductor)


Matthew Richardson (director)
Jon Morrell (designer)
Tony Rabbit (lighting)

Matthew Richardson’s Rigoletto uses costumes of the wealthy in the 1950s but its minimalist setting mean that the opera might as well be located anywhere. Quite right, too: Verdi’s story of lust in the powerful, and the damage that it wreaks on their victims, is every bit as powerful in our world of scandal and super-injunctions as it was at its sensational 1851 premiere. The Duke’s palace is, instead, a slick swingers’ club complete with disco balls. All the women are mannequins rather than flesh and blood people, presumably a comment on the objectification that such treatment reduces women to. This works well for the first scene and we see smashed-up mannequins at the beginning of Act 2 to coincide with the Duke’s frustration at the loss of Gilda. However, in the final scene Gilda’s body in the sack is also replaced with a mannequin while Gilda herself (or presumably her spirit en route to heaven) sings the duet standing in the distance behind her father. It’s not a bad idea but it does add a fatal layer of distance to what should be one of the most poignant death scenes in opera.

Thankfully the singing was excellent and in many ways surpassed my expectations. Eddie Wade was a very convincing Rigoletto. His baritone may not have the heroic quality one ideally wants for this part, but there is no doubt that he is thoroughly inside the role, even if he sounded strained at the top. Pari siamo was a great character study but was surpassed by his great Act 2 scene with the courtiers, moving from towering rage to cowering impotence without any sense of irony. Edgaras Montvidas took a while to grow into the Duke, and I’ve heard him sound much fuller and more relaxed than he did tonight, but the top of his voice had a lovely ring to it and Parmi veder le lagrime was beautiful, if a little unfocused. To his credit, he also sang the cabaletta. Louise Collett, one of Scottish Opera’s Emerging Artists, brings something special to everything she sings, and here her Maddalena was breathless and sensual, underpinning the quartet with sultry darkness. Most outstanding of all, however, was Nadine Livingston, another of Scottish Opera’s Emerging Artists. Her Gilda is one of the finest I have heard in a long time, bright and innocent for the first act, wounded and vulnerable in the second. The clarity of her tone is remarkable, as is her technical skill for the coloratura of Caro nome, and her performance in the final duet was deeply moving. The minor roles were very well sung too, with an excellent Sparafucile and an unusually colourful Marullo from Michel de Souza. However it was the ensembles that impressed me most, especially the three great father-daughter duets. Livingston and Wade had clearly worked on complementing one another so that the blend of their voices was just right and sounded marvellously subtle while never losing its intrinsic beauty. If the Act 1 duet was touching then the death scene at the end of the third act sounded so intense as to be almost heartbreaking… mannequin apart!

Rigoletto continues until 25th June on tour to Aberdeen , Inverness , Belfast and Dublin . For full details, as well as information on the new season, go to

Simon Thompson