Spectacular Sets And A Mixed Vocal Cast in Valencia’s Rigoletto

SpainSpain  Verdi, Rigoletto: Orchestra Comunitat Valenciana, Chorus Generalitat Valenciana, Omer Meir Wellber (conductor), Valencia’s Palau de Les Arts, 13.11.2012 (JMI)

Production: Warsaw’s Teatr Wielki
Direction: Gilbert Deflo (original),  Beata Redo-Dobber (revival)
Sets: Ezio Frigerio
Costumes: Franca Squarciapino
Lighting: Stanislaw Zieba

Rigoletto: Juan Jesús Rodríguez
Gilda: Helen Kearns
Duca di Mantova: Ivan Magri
Sparafucile: Paata Burchuladze
Maddalena: Adriana Di Paola
Monterone: Amartuvshin Enkhbat
Giovanna: Marina Pinchuk
Marullo: Sergio Vitale
Borsa: Mario Cerdá
Count Ceprano: Miguel Ángel Zapater
Çountess Ceprano: Maria Kosenkova

Photo Courtesy of the Palau de les Arts

Valencia opened its 2012/13 season with this Rigoletto. Even, so despite the opera being one of the most popular titles with audiences, the Palau de Les Arts was not sold out. The truly great achievements of this theater’s past few years are sadly  only a  distant  souvenir now, which  will not be added to with this production. The outstanding qualities of the theater’s stable forces (its orchestra and chorus) however are still there and that is certainly not a small asset.

The production bears the signature of Gilbert Deflo and comes from Warsaw. In fact  two current productions of Rigoletto by Gilbert Deflo are available. The other one is currently being performed at Milan’s La Scala and both are already almost 20 years old.  Both are realistic and large scale stagings in the great traditions of the past.  This one is very elegant, huge and bright in the first two acts, with  marble columns and stained glass windows in profusion, but  less spectacular in the third act. Costumes range from being simply appropriate to very appealing, depending on whether we are watching the more intimate or the massed scenes. But the production’s biggest problem is that it needs three long intermissions, something hardly justified within a modern theater.

The musical direction was in the hands of Omer Meir Wellber, whose reading was really good, highlighting the dramatic aspects of the opera and always maintaining the necessary tension. Mr Wellber is not the kind of conductor who sleeps on the podium, but, on the contrary, his readings always offer very vivid tempi, and so it was on this occasion. There were some moments when the singers seemed to have difficulties in following him (the Gilda and Duca duet for example and the end of la Vendetta) but the orchestra continues to be an outstanding musical group and the same can be said of the chorus.

Rigoletto was played by baritone Juan Jesús Rodriguez, who offered the best vocal performance of the evening. Rodriguez is undoubtedly the most important Verdi baritone in Spain  just now – including both Carlos Alvarez and Placido Domingo – and he again showed his suitability for the character of the hunchback. What he brings in vocal terms however does not always correspond with the emotion he conveys, so that his  interpretation can seem rather monotonous, and stronger on  decibels than nuance. Despite this though, it is always good to hear a voice like his in these Verdi characters.

The American soprano Erin Morley canceled due to illness and  was replaced by Helen Kearns. This young Irish soprano is not quite the type of singer usually  identified with Gilda, since her voice has unusual width. Personally  I don’t find this particularly attractive  that’s simply a matter of taste. To my mind, she pursued volume  rather too much at the expense of subtlety,  which is understandable in a debut, but I do feel that she should restrain this impulse, since her voice works significantly better,  when controlled. The top notes are all there, but they are not as attractive as they might be  and sometimes seem to be on the verge of shouting.

Another young singer, the tenor Ivan Magri, sang the Duke and his performance was somewhat uneven. Sometimes his voice offers the good quality of a light lyric tenor, but he tends to almost swallow his sound from time to time. Vocal projection is also generally rather good, except at  passaggio points, where the voice seems to recede, opening out again at the top. Like Erin Morley, Ivan Magri has the top notes, but he also has problems controlling them. He is still young though and his raw material is good.

Veteran Paata Burchuladze was Sparafucile, offering an authentic bass voice, which is too rarely heard in the character: unfortunately though, his voice is very unstable nowadays. Adriana Di Paola was a presentable Maddalena, although rather too concerned with  showing off her legs in my opinion.

In the supporting cast, Amartuvshin Enkhbat (Monterone here but he will also be Rigoletto in one performance) seems to have real problems with projection. He was pretty well inaudible when  orchestral volume was raised.

The theatre was at about 90 % of its capacity and at the final bows, the biggest applause went to Juan Jesús Rodríguez.


José Mª. Irurzun