WNO Rigoletto review

RIGOLETTO IN THE WHITE HOUSE

RIGOLETTO
Welsh National Opera at Birmingham Hippodrome ★★★★
Fine singing and playing rescued Verdi's music from an invidiously updated production – set in the White House in the early 1960s. The young Korean soprano Haegee Lee, in ankle socks and pleated skirt, was a believably sheltered girl but one who, in Gilda's aria Caro nome, eloquently expressed all her suppressed passion and yearning. A very light, flexible voice, never shrill, and with well articulated coloratura. As the object of her romantic dreams David Junghoon Kim's Duke demonstrated a robust Italianate tenor and delivered a nicely insouciant La donna è mobile.
Mark S. Doss's Rigoletto – part jester, part pander in his loud check jacket and co-respondent's shoes – was once a bel canto baritone but now has the weight of voice, and cutting edge, to do justice to this demanding role. His outrage in the denunciatory Cortigiani, vil razza dannata was thunderous,the reaction to his daughter's death devastating. And here's the problem with the trite conceit of James Macdonald's production – it omits the original setting's deeply embedded Christian ethics. Gilda's plea for her seducer's life, and the sacrifice of her own, should give her martyr status but here she was reduced to a credulous victim of the Duke's sexual grooming. Her plea rendered no better than that of the sentimental slut Maddelena (delightfully sleazy Emma Carrington) to her hitman brother Sparafucile (suitably sepulchral bass James Platt). Idiomatic orchestral support under conductor Alexander Joel – a tremendous storm scene with its quaintly eerie humming chorus.
Norman Stinchcombe

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