The curtains open on Rigoletto putting on his make-up, with the stage revolving to see him lurch onto the court. Brilliant and grotesque as the painted, humpbacked jester who collaborates with the Duke’s lascivious plans, Rigoletto’s actions in opening scene serve to highlight the ensuing incongruity between his two personalities and roles.
We see him in Scene Two as the over-protective but loving father, fussing over his daughter Gilda, played beautifully by Elvira Fatykhova. Dutiful daughter Gilda sings of her love for the Duke like an angel, sweetly and delicately, winning the audience over with her breathtaking command of the upper notes. The set for this scene in particular was perfect - Rigoletto’s humble, warm house, complete with steam rising from a pasta dinner, stood in sharp contrast with the harsh opulence of the Duke’s palace.
The stand-out performance of the evening was certainly Rigoletto as the pitiable father. Michael Lewis was commanding in the role, bringing a strong stage presence in a powerful voice. He sang and acted fantastically and was particularly movingly in the scene of Gilda’s death, where he clutched her to himself, sobbed and smothered her with little kisses. He deservingly received the biggest ovation of the night.
Among the heavier scenes were moments of comedy mostly provided by the backing male chorus, such as them moving in sync with Risky Business-style sunglasses.
My only criticism is that the Duke seemed a little too harmless for the macho ruler that Verdi intended. He sang with gusto but perhaps not as assured as he could have been.
That being said, this thrilling production enthralled me from start to finish. From the lavish 70s costuming to the lighting to Michael Yeargan’s revolving set design, it was a visual and aural feast. The West Australian Symphony Orchestra added support to the singers without overpowering them, and were an essential part of building the atmosphere of impending doom leading up to Gilda’s murder. Three hours very well spent.
West Australian Opera presents
by Guiseppe Verdi/Elijah Moshinsky
Venue: His Majestys Theatre, Perth
Dates: Thursday August 16 - Saturday August 25
Time: 7:30 pm
Tickets: $35 - 125
Bookings: 9484 1133