Back to the Staatsoper this evening for Verdi’s Rigoletto. I saw this same production a few years ago, but a promising cast and an available ticket brought me back.
The British baritone Simon Keenlyside portrayed Rigoletto almost acrobatically – rolling a cartwheel to make his onstage entrance during the Prologue. He did not stay still, although his actions never became hectic or frantic but rather measured, as a good court jester would understand. He also successfully navigated the two mutually-exclusive halves of Rigoletto’s tortured personality: the professional fool who is hated by the court for speaking truth and the doting father who tries, ultimately unsuccessfully, to protect his treasured daughter from an evil world.
Young Russian soprano Olga Peretyatko made her Staatsoper debut as Rigoletto’s dear Gilda. Her voice and her demeanor graced the stages suitably delicately, as appropriate. Her range impressed, but while her upper and lower registers produced the purest tones, her middle register wobbled quite a bit too much.
As the Duke of Mantua, American Matthew Polenzani cut a dashing figure – a one dimensional character played to the fullest. Kurt Rydl, a menacing Sparafucile, and Elena Maximova as Maddalena rounded out the main ensemble roles. Sorin Coliban, in the minor role of the Count of Monterone, deserves special mention, in that his character, although having only two brief appearances on stage, curses Rigoletto, thus driving the plot and sending Rigoletto into ultimate despair. Without a strong curse, the whole plot can collapse. Coliban’s commanding voice projected from the back of the stage, hitting and devastating poor Rigoletto. Keenlyside picked up the plot from there.
Jesús López-Cobos conducted the State Opera Orchestra from the pit, but appeared to have a smile on his face as he looked over the orchestra to the active and fully-engaged cast.