A Musically Pleasing Rigoletto – But a Very Strange Production

GermanyGermany Verdi: Rigoletto, Orchestra and Chorus of the Deutsche Oper / Diego Matheuz (conductor), Deutsche Oper, Berlin, 12.11.2016. (JMI)

Rigoletto © B. Stöss
Deutsche Oper’s Rigoletto © B Stöss

Rigoletto – Francesco Landolfi
Gilda – Siobhan Stagg
Duca di Mantova –Yosep Kang
Sparafucile – Ievgen Orlov
Giovanna/Maddalena – Judit Kutasi
Monterone – Dong-Hwan Lee
Marullo – Thomas Lehman
Borsa – Matthew Newlin
Countess Ceprano – Adriana Ferfezka
Count Ceprano – Ben Wager

Director – Jan Bosse
Sets – Stéphane Laimé
Costumes – Kathrin Plath

For me, the main attraction of this Rigoletto was to have been the presence of Markus Brück, an excellent baritone. Unfortunately, he cancelled, and one was left with an enjoyable musical version but a rather modest cast and an unappealing production.

The staging by Jan Bosse premiered in this theatre in May 2013, and could be considered original and iconoclastic – but absurd and boring as well. Upon entering the theatre, one finds not the curtain that usually closes off the stage, but rather a replica (on a reduced scale) of the Deutsche Oper itself, with two levels where the chorus and extras sit as if they were spectators. The action takes place in these stalls, with a vaguely modern and mafioso Duca and the jester dressed like some sort of Drag Queen rabbit. The scene of Rigoletto and Sparafucile also takes place in the stalls, and we enter the house of Rigoletto and Gilda by the back rows being lifted. This reduced space is so narrow that it doesn’t allow for movement. The chairs return for the second act, while in Act III, the extras turn the seats around to make Sparafucile’s house appear (a lot of imagination is needed). That later totally disappears in the storm, leaving a bare space where Gilda dies in the arms of Rigoletto. It’s one of the worst Rigoletto productions I’ve ever seen, along with one by Doris Dorrie (Rigoletto in the country of the apes) and that of Arpad Schilling, who offered stands instead of stalls for the chorus.

However, in musical terms things worked just fine. At the helm was the young (32) Venezuelan conductor Diego Matheuz, who made a very positive impression last year in the Liceu’s Don Pasquale. His reading had liveliness and tension plus a fine control of orchestral volume. He’s an interesting conductor and has an important career ahead. There were solid performances from both the orchestra and the chorus.

The replacement for Markus Brück was Francesco Landolfi, a rather modest baritone, who managed to save the situation with some decorum. His voice is not particularly interesting: it’s short at the bottom and sometimes offers dirty sounds in the high notes.

The best in the cast was Australian soprano Siobhan Stagg in the part of Gilda. Her attractive voice is nicely suited to the character, and she is an appealing and skilled performer. I had the opportunity to see her in this house last year as Sophie (Der Rosenkavalier) and Blondine, and she has matured since then; she had some acid sounds on the top notes, which is not the case now.

Korean tenor Yosep Kang sings a very wide repertoire in Berlin. His voice is solid and projects well, but he is starting to pay the toll for some of the roles he has been singing. His top notes are clearly tighter than just a year ago, to the point that he had problems with the high B of ‘La donna è mobile’.

Ievgen Orlov did well as Sparafucile; his voice has that certain amplitude to sing Verdi. Judit Kutasi doubled as Giovanna and Maddalena, and was better in the latter role, with a wide and attractive voice.

Bass Dong-Hwan Lee was a somewhat modest and tight Monterone, but I liked the Count Ceprano of Ben Wagner. There were good contributions from Matthew Newlin (Borsa), Thomas Lehman (Marullo) and Adriana Ferfezka (Countess Ceprano).

José M. Irurzun

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