In an era of metoo hashtags and never-ending revelations of sexual harassment at the hands of predatory, powerful men, Verdi’s classic opera Rigoletto resonates more strongly than ever. When the opera was first staged in 1851, Verdi struggled to get his masterpiece past the censors. The libretto was based on a play by Victor Hugo, which the disapproving Parisian authorities banned for fifty years. The portrayal of a lecherous and libertine nobleman was considered controversial in 19th century Europe. More than a century and a half later, the depiction of a privileged man seducing, abusing and sexually conquering countless women is sadly commonplace.
The role of the womanising Duke of Mantua is performed masterfully by the Italian baritone Gianluca Terranova whose voice soars above the Opera House when performing the opera’s most famous aria La donna e mobile in the final act. The tragic hunchback, Rigoletto is compellingly portrayed by the Slovak baritone Dalibor Jenis who captures the court jester’s humour and menace brilliantly. His cloistered daughter, who is seduced by the Duke is played by the charming Russian soprano Irina Lungu. Her performance of the famous aria Cara nome in the second act alone is worth the price of admission. Ukrainian basso Taras Berezhansky is mesmerising as the hired assassin Sparafucile. The production is a revival of Elijah Mojinky’s 30 year-old staging. Set in the 1960s Opera Australia veterans have seen it all before, which is of little importance when listening to one of Verdi’s best loved and well known operas.
Until Aug 24. Sydney Opera House, Bennelong Point, Sydney. $46-$348+b.f. Tickets & Info: www.opera.org.au
Reviewed by Lawrence Gibbons.