Notes and Editorial Reviews
Picture format: NTSC 16:9
Sound format: LPCM Stereo / Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Region code: All Region
Subtitles: English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Catalan
Booklet notes: English, French, German
Running time: 130 mins
This production, having been seen in Madrid, Florence, and Palermo, came to Barcelona's Teatre del Liceu and was recorded in December, 2004. It is a bitter pill, and it is highly recommended. Judging from the sets and costumes by Paul Brown and abetted by (or led by) Graham Vick's direction, the Mantuan Court and all its inhabitants are vile indeed. The hideous Rigoletto--patchy-haired, looking diseased--is seen during the
prelude in front of the curtain, his smirk joyless, insinuating, and ugly. He sits on a leather armchair that shows up in every act. Brown's designs are unrecognizable as to period: leather coats, swords, garish dresses, and dirty, long hair like this is available anywhere, anytime there are tasteless thugs and sluts. Rigoletto's clown suit is an unfunny, hideous patchwork, and the courtiers look awful enough without the "Clockwork Orange" masks and wigs they put on for Gilda's abduction. The high-walled, bunker-like semicircles on a turntable that open and close to alter the look of the set imply a stifling, private hell. The Duke's "Palace" sports women sitting on armchairs up against the outside wall, presumably ripe for the plucking by the Duke. Rigoletto's home is similarly walled but at least has a tree at its center, and Sparafucile's seaside dwelling, with no water in sight, is not only enclosed but is on a precipitous slant, suggesting that all decent balance in the universe is slipping away.
And Graham Vick presents us with utter wretches in wretched situations: the effeminate Marullo and the courtiers kick and punch Monterone, watch through peephole windows as the Duke and Gilda are in bed, and refuse to stop poking and jeering at Rigoletto until half-way through his intense "Cortigiani". The Duke sneers during "Bella figlia dell'amore" as if he isn't even trying to keep a straight face for all his lies. After the storm, the curtain comes down again and Rigoletto re-enters in front of it; when it rises again, the stage is bare save for the leather armchair and rubble. When Rigoletto gets the body in the sack, he can't resist punching it over and over again, making his eventual discovery even more horrible.
And the final moments, on a bare, filthy stage, powerfully underline Rigoletto's isolation and self-hatred--he throws the dead Gilda to the ground before running from the scene. I do wish the first meeting between Sparafucile and Rigoletto had not taken place in front of the brightly lit curtain--it goes against stage directions and musical expression; but that and a few other bits are the only touches that do not ring true in the world that designer and director have created.
At the center of the performance is, correctly, the Rigoletto of Carlos Alvarez. Dramatically aware at every moment, suspicious, hateful, cut off, he moves painfully and stealthily and his singing is expressive and handsome, every nuance of the role thought out. I can't recall a finer portrayal. Marcello Alvarez's Duke also is remarkable. Golden-toned, snide, carefree but essentially cruel, he accents "La donna e mobile" with a lilt in the first bar--"La'ha...,"--which is so wonderfully arrogant that it seems to sting Rigoletto more than usual near the opera's close. Inva Mula's Gilda is sweet and absolutely accurate, and Vick gives her firm feelings of her own. In her duet with Rigoletto that closes the second act, she leaps onto the Duke's bed as the curtain falls. Julian Konstantinov is a nasty, brutal Sparafucile and Nino Surguladze's Maddalena is S-M effective.
Jesús López-Cobos turns the drama into something ferocious while still highlighting the more tender moments; his instincts are always correct. The offstage men's chorus in the storm is louder and more aggressive than usual, and it terrifies. The Liceu's Orchestra and Chorus are in great form. This is a potent brew, not your parents' Rigoletto, but an honestly brutal representation of the opera. And most importantly, it is musically superb. Subtitles are given in all major European languages and Catalan; the 16.9 picture is excellent, and sound is available in DD 5.1, DTS 5.1, LPCM Stereo. [10/25/2006]
--Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com Read less
Works on This Recording
Rigoletto by Giuseppe Verdi
Carlos Alvarez (Baritone),
Marcelo Alvarez (Tenor),
Julian Konstantinov (Bass),
Inva Mula (Soprano),
Nino Surguladze (Mezzo Soprano)
Barcelona Teatro Liceu Orchestra,
Barcelona Teatro Liceu Chorus
Written: 1851; Italy
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