Leo Nucci is, Once Again, a Marvelous Rigoletto

13/05/2019

Verdi, Rigoletto: Generalitat Valenciana Chorus, Comunitat Valenciana Orchestra / Roberto Abbado (conductor), Palau de Les Arts, Valencia, 11.5.2019. (JMI)

Rigoletto (Leo Nucci) © Mikel Ponce y Miguel Lorenzo

Rigoletto (Leo Nucci) © Mikel Ponce y Miguel Lorenzo

Production:
Director – Emilio Sagi
Sets – Ricardo Sánchez-Cuerda
Costumes – Miguel Crespí
Lighting – Eduardo Bravo

Cast:
Rigoletto – Leo Nucci
Gilda – Maria Grazia Schiavo
Duke of Mantua – Celso Albelo
Sparafucile – Marco Spotti
Maddalena – Nino Surguladze
Monterone – Gabriele Sagona
Giovanna – Marta Di Stefano
Countess Ceprano – Olga Syniakova
Marullo – Alberto Bonifazio
Ceprano – Arturo Espinosa
Borsa – Mark Serdyuk
Page – Juliette Chauvet
Usher – Pau Armengol

Rigoletto was last performed in Valencia’s Palau de Les Arts in November 2012. Now it has returned in what could be considered an homage to Leo Nucci, the Rigoletto par excellence of the past 25 years, who remains a vocal miracle and an example for so many singers. Needless to say, this performance marked a new triumph for the Italian baritone.

This is the well-known Emilio Sagi staging which premiered in Bilbao in 2006. The production, which I have had the opportunity to see several times, is a modern work that respects the libretto. The set is made up of two levels with moving platforms that facilitate changes, but anyone who expects to see Verona, the river or palaces will be disappointed. The costumes are traditional and well suited for the protagonists, and somewhat Felliniesque for the extras. The lighting can be insufficient at times, no doubt due to the (perhaps excessive) darkness that Sagi maintains on the stage.

The direction seemed to fall a bit short with the soloists, and it could have been improved for the crowd scenes. The incestuous relationship of Sparafucile and Maddalena is provocative, but it helps one understand the depraved character of the assassins and the Duke’s debauchery.

Conductor Roberto Abbado’s reading was good in general, at the service of the singers and drawing fine performances from both orchestra and chorus.  I have some questions about his responsibility in cutting the traditional high notes, to which I will refer later.

As I said above, Leo Nucci is truly a vocal miracle, given the way he sings and moves on stage at the age of 77. It has been 35 years since I first saw him as Rigoletto, and it is amazing how he keeps himself in this vocal shape. I think opera fans will agree that Nucci is the great Rigoletto of the past quarter of a century, totally identifying with the role of the hunchback. There is a wide vibrato in his high notes now, and the volume of his lowest register is reduced, but his Rigoletto is still superb. Surely no one would expect a Rigoletto with Leo Nucci in which there is no encore of the ‘Vendetta’ and, indeed, there was one on this occasion.

Gilda was played by soprano Maria Grazia Schiavo, who was making her debut here. She has an attractive voice, one well-suited to the character of Gilda, with good coloratura, although her highest notes can be a bit harsh.

Celso Albelo was again the Duke of Mantua, but I cannot say that his performance was particularly brilliant. It is known that this singer has always had a huge facility in the top notes, but this time was different. It is not that he failed at them, but he simply didn’t sing them, at least all those considered optional, which really are all the high Cs in the first and second acts. It is the first time that I have not heard him going to the high C in ‘Addio, addio’ or ‘Possente amor’. I don’t know if the decision was his or the musical director’s, but the audience lost out because of it.

Sparafucile was interpreted by bass Marco Spotti who, incidentally, was also the murderer when this production premiered in Bilbao. In the intervening years, his voice has lost some quality, and he is today a more modest interpreter. Maddalena was correctly sung by mezzo-soprano Nino Surguladze, who is well-suited to the role in terms both of singing and acting. The Monterone of Gabriele Sagona was satisfactory. The rest of secondary characters were covered by students of the Plácido Domingo Perfection Center, as is usual here.

The Palau de Les Arts was sold out, and the audience greeted the artists warmly, especially Leo Nucci, who received a standing ovation.

José M. Irurzun

Comments

Leave a Reply

Recent Reviews

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • NEW! Lyric Opera of Chicago’s 2020 Ring Cycles __________________________________
  • NEW! Roman River 2019 Festival __________________________________
  • NEW! Ex Cathedra’s 50th Anniversary Season in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Geneva Grand Théâtre in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • UPDATED! 2019-20 at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden __________________________________
  • NEW! Bregenz Festival 17 July – 18 August 2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Musikfest Berlin 2019 from 30 August to 19 September __________________________________
  • NEW! 2019 BBC Proms 19 July – 14 September __________________________________
  • NEW! Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Zurich Opera House in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! English National Opera in 2019-2020 __________________________________
  • NEW! Adrian Partington Introduces the 2019 Three Choirs Festival in Conversation with John Quinn __________________________________
  • NEW! ENB in 2019-2020 and Updates on their New London City Island Home __________________________________
  • NEW! Classical Music and Other Events at the Southbank Centre in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Cleveland Orchestra in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Classical Music at the Barbican in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Review Summary Newsletter

    Reviews by Reviewer

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • NEW! CHORUS MASTER STEPHEN DOUGHTY IN CONVERSATION WITH ROBERT BEATTIE __________________________________
  • NEW! Ron Howard’s Pavarotti in Cinemas 13 July (Preview) and Nationwide (15 July) __________________________________
  • NEW! MULTI-FACETED MUSICIAN JOY LISNEY IN CONVERSATION WITH ROBERT BEATTIE __________________________________
  • NEW! ‘MUSICAL MAGIC’: AN INTERVIEW WITH VIOLINIST HENNING KRAGGERUD __________________________________
  • NEW! English National Ballet Announces Winners of Emerging Dancer 2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! CONDUCTOR THOMAS SANDERLING IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • NEW! Chelsea Opera Group Perform Anton Rubinstein’s The Demon on 30 June __________________________________
  • NEW! In August Fulham Opera’s Most Ambitious Project to Date – Die Meistersinger Von Nürnberg __________________________________
  • R.I.P. IN MEMORIAM ANDRÉ PREVIN (1929-2019) __________________________________
  • NEW! CHRISTOPHE ROUSSET IN CONVERSATION WITH COLIN CLARKE __________________________________
  • CONDUCTOR ÁDÁM FISCHER IN CONVERSATION WITH MICHAEL COOKSON __________________________________
  • MAESTRO RICCARDO FRIZZA IN CONVERSATION WITH MARGARIDA MOTA-BULL __________________________________
  • A Q&A WITH GERMAN SOPRANO PETRA LANG __________________________________
  • HOW TO CONTACT SEEN AND HEARD INTERNATIONAL __________________________________
  • Search S&H

    Archives by Week

    Archives by Month