REVIEW: Verdi’s Rigoletto: ENO

February 15, 2014


Verdi’s Rigoletto: ENO

This is a sumptuous new production of Verdi’s tragic masterpiece Rigoletto  directed by Christopher Alden. Rigoletto is widely considered to be the first of the operatic masterpieces of Verdi’s career. The curtain rises and we are within a 19th century gentleman’s club, Michael Levine’s set is rich with exquisite period detail and atmosphere, providing the perfect backdrop for Verdi’s themes of passion, revenge and sacrifice. It’s panelled perspective is a fine focus for the actions but it also never changes so confuses the story a little further into the action when other places are usually represented, this combination of high definition reality then dream like metaphor confused me a little, and even detracted from some of the finer points that Verdi tries to make or Alden is struggling to point out.  It does heave with male malevolence though, my  (lady) companion commenting on the oppressive realness of this quite early on in the night.

1097-4369-eno_rigoletto_2014_anna_christy_and_eno_chorus__c__alastair_muir See the trailer here:

Hawaiian baritone Quinn Kelsey is utterly captivating, full of power and conviction and just on his own would make this production something to see, his performance as the jester Rigoletto is the best I’ve ever heard, he’s on stage from the first moment, rarely leaving it, and it commanding with his huge presence from the off. With him soprano Anna Christy as Gilda is perfectly innocent and doll like, captivating the audience with her crystal clear singing. Barry Banks making his debut in the role of the Duke of Mantua is vocally perfect and thrills with his tone but oddly unconvincing as a man consumed with sexual conquests.

riggaletto1The chorus and all the other main singers stay on stage all the time, this gives a huge sense of presence and manipulative court like shenanigans to the opera but also crowds out the more intimate or brutal scenes with background action and rhubarb rhubarb orgiastic nonsense. However the music shone out with a brilliance even if Hugo’s story was given a tweak too far and lost something.

5038The singing really is top notch and Justina Gringytes’ Maddalena was a delight along with the dark creepy stage presence of Peter Roses’ Sparafucile, he made me shudder . Graeme Jenkins conducting with a fiery passion not seen for a while with Jonathan Millers rather comfortable previous ENO production of Rigoletto, but here the orchestra under Jenkins manic baton burns away the past with a furious attention to Verdian details that blasted the dust of this difficult opera and lifted into a living piece for me once again.

So not a perfect night by any means, the narrative journey is muddled a little by the mass of action on stage but there are enough excellent elements to make this a rather enjoyable evening out, the singing is perfect, the set a delight and the music without recent parallel.

ENO-Rigoletto-2014-Alastair-MuirWorth going along to enjoy Hawaiian baritone Quinn Kelsey just on his own, if not the sheer visual drama of the production while relaxing and letting the music enthral you.  Alden’s attempt to drag this opera back to its difficult and controversial roots – away from it’s cosy familiar place in the ENO repertoire is a success though, and brings it far closer to Verdi’s original edgy idea.

Until March 14th

 English National Opera

London Coliseum

St Martins Lane


Until March 14th

Sat 15, Thu 20, Sat 22, Tue 25th February.

Sat 1, Web 5, Fri 7, Mon 10, Wed 12 & Fri 14th of March.

For more information or to book tickets see the ENO website here: