The Insight Evening that took place on 28 January at the Royal Opera House's Clore Studio is only the first of several events organised to celebrate the revival of David McVicar's production of Rigoletto at Covent Garden.
Hannah Elder (acting orchestra education manager) presented this meeting that started with an introduction to the opera's background and context by Roger Parker, Professor of Music at King's College London and distinguished Verdi expert.
A panel discussion between artists and producers followed Parker's talk: Daniel Dooner (revival director), Paolo Gavanelli (baritone, Rigoletto) and Ekaterina Siurina (soprano, Gilda) expressed their ideas concerning this production and their roles. Finally, Paul Wynne Griffiths, Monika Evelin Liiv, Chaghan Lim and Vuyani Mlinde presented a practical session introducing the audience to arias and scenes from Verdi's opera.
The evening focused on the revival of Rigoletto, which will be presented at Covent Garden from 10 February. Parker underlined the shocking qualities of this opera when it first was performed at La Fenice in Venice in 1851, and of how powerfully it detached from previous operatic types. Precisely for its unconventional features, this opera (based on Victor Hugo's Le roi s'amuse) encountered political, religious and social censorship in Northern Italy, at that time controlled by the Austrian Empire. The final version of Rigoletto was affected by such restrictions.
And yet, the subject was so solid that its grievous themes do not cease to shock: corruption, hypocrisy, unutterable violence and parental love entwine in Rigoletto. The questions Parker raised dealt with the ways in which a contemporary production is able to convey the shocking features of such an opera.
During the panel discussion that followed, the singers and the director developed these themes, sharing their views with the public. In an interview with Dominic McHugh in 2007, Gavanelli referred to McVicar's prodution as ‘one of the jewels of the opera world'. Just as in 2007, on this occasion Gavanelli maintained his opinion, confirming that this is ‘one of the best, if not the best Rigoletto production' in which he has ever sung. When asked about his role, Gavanelli emphasised Rigoletto's schizophrenic attitude and unjustifiable behaviour, redeemed only by his catastrophic love for his daughter, Gilda, which leads to a tragic outcome. Ekaterina Siurina (Gilda) and Daniel Dooner commented on how both costumes and staging contribute to what Parker referred to in his talk. In other words, this production visually reinforces the clash between an ephemeral purity (embodied at the beginning by Gilda in her singing, acting, and costume) and the tragedy of experiencing this purity to collapse, as it reveals itself to be extremely frail within a fatally corrupt environment.
A school's matinee of Rigoletto is programmed on 6 February (the event is sold out), and a masterclass with Paolo Gavanelli will be held at the Linbury Studio on 2 March.
Rigoletto opens at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, on 10 February 2009 and runs until 1 March.
Interview with Leo Nucci (January 2009), who will play Rigoletto during this run
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