Sunday, May 19, 2019

Moshinsky's Rigoletto revival for Opera Australia in Melbourne is opera at its chilling best: Herald Sun Review

Published in print in edited form in Melbourne's Herald Sun on 14th May, 2019

Us humans are often faced with the task of juggling disgust and sympathy in judgement upon others’ questionable morality and behaviour. That quality ripples through Verdi’s Rigoletto. In Opera Australia’s almost 30 year-old Elijah Moshinsky production, it was captured glaringly and poignantly.
It was also demonstrated when one disgruntled attendee with a decades-long grudge delayed the start by 20 minutes with audience sympathy (little) and disgust (pronounced) at work even before the curtain went up. In Verdi’s work, however, bitterness is spun with revenge and murder in a horrifying outcome that ends the life of an innocent and backfires on the perpetrator.

Amartuvshin Enkhbat as Rigoletto and Liparit Avetisyan as the Duke
Under revival director Hugh Halliday, part of the allure of Moshinsky’s work stems from Michael Yeargan’s splendid detailed design. As if to cement its 1960s update in its period Italianate surrounds, the hunchbacked Rigoletto transforms into something much like Batman's adversary, The Joker. Gilda, his over-protected daughter, initially feels restricted by a Sandra Dee-like exterior but both reveal far more as these archetypes are abandoned.

The opening scene - alluding to a debauched gentleman’s club rather than the original story’s 16th century ducal palace setting - could do with fine-tuning. But the central trio of youngish soloists excelled in powering and shading robust characters.

Commanding Mongolian baritone Amartuvshin Enkhbat proved himself a compelling actor and nuanced interpreter. In Enkhbat’s aggrieved, nervy and hobbling Rigoletto, assuredness and smoothness of tone dominated alongside an expansive voice with reserves of fuel through to Rigoletto’s agonised finale.

Liparit Avetisyan as Duke of Mantua and Stacey Alleaume as Gilda
In a meritorious role debut, Stacey Alleaume brought penetrating expressivity in gleaming silvery voice to Gilda’s fatal romance. Armenian Liparit Avetisyan was impressive as the lecherous Duke. A mocking “La donna è mobile” certainly won on popularity but it was Act 2’s twin arias where, with the power to seduce his audience, Avetisyan’s melting warmth and passionate tenor struck gold.

Roberto Scandiuzzi’s hulking Sparafucile headed a muscular supporting cast although in the pit conductor Andrea Licata took tempi in occasionally unsettling direction. Including one of opera’s most gripping moments in a thunderous night of terror when murder answers the door, Rigoletto is opera at it’s chilling best.

Opera Australia
State Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne
Until 29th May, 2019


Production Photos: Jeff Busby

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