As part of our Introducing… Tour 2019 series we take a look at Glyndebourne’s first ever production of Rigoletto.
‘The story is great, immense, and includes a character who is one of the greatest creations that the theatres of all nations and all times will boast…’ – Verdi
Verdi’s own favourite among his operas, Rigoletto is a tragedy of Shakespearean scope set to a score that broods with storm-clouds and threat – as atmospheric as it is relentlessly dramatic. Filled with many of the composer’s finest tunes, the score includes much-loved aria ‘La donna è mobile’ as well as the glorious quartet ‘Bella figlia dell’amore’.
Employed by the charismatic Duke to ridicule his enemies, Rigoletto is as cruel as he is quick-witted, mocking the men whose wives and daughters are seduced and abandoned by his master. But when the Duke turns his wandering eye on Rigoletto’s own 16-year-old daughter Gilda the tables are turned. The jester plots his revenge, but reckons without his daughter’s all-consuming love for her seducer, and retribution quickly turns to tragedy.
Rigoletto is to opera as Othello is to theatre – a devastating psychological portrait of a social outsider driven to darkness and violence. The character of the hunchbacked jester Rigoletto is one of Verdi’s most fascinating creations, an anti-hero whose ruthless wit and bitterness is the armour he must wear against a brutal world in which power and privilege are all.
Why not to miss it:
This is Glyndebourne’s first ever staging of Rigoletto, the follow-up to our ‘exquisite’(The Daily Express) and ‘heartbreaking’ (The Telegraph) La traviata which toured in 2018. The opera shares all La traviata’s emotional intensity as well as its musical beauty, but adds an additional layer of darkness – exploring some of our basest human instinct and urges, probing social and psychological wounds as well as physical ones.
This new production marks the company debut of the exciting young German director Christiane Lutz, who will bring a fresh, female perspective to a work that confronts questions of masculinity and male power. Updating the action to the 20th century, Lutz’s staging brings Verdi’s tragedy into our own age, colliding a classic 19th-century opera with more contemporary questions of gender politics.
Cast and creative team:
Up-and-coming director Christiane Lutz directs Glyndebourne’s first ever Rigoletto. She is joined by a dynamic young cast including many fresh faces. Georgian baritone Nikoloz Lagvilava takes the title role of Rigoletto, with South African soprano and Operalia prize-winner Vuvu Mpofu as his beloved daughter Gilda – both are making their Glyndebourne debut.
Tenor Matteo Lippi – whose ‘bronze tone and ardent phrase’ made him a ‘marvellous’ (The Guardian) Pinkerton in 2016 – returns as the charismatic Duke of Mantua, with Oleg Budaratskiy as assassin Sparafucile and Madeleine Shaw as his seductive sister Maddalena. Thomas Blunt conducts the Glyndebourne Tour Orchestra.
A great moment to look out for:
Rigoletto is awash with tunes, but there’s one that stands apart – one of the greatest, most glorious melodies Verdi would ever write, and still one of opera’s most popular and instantly recognisable moments. ‘La donna è mobile’ (Women Are Fickle) is the playboy-Duke’s anthem to female inconstancy. The impossibly catchy melody and lilting, laid-back rhythm catch the easy charm of the Duke, for whom women are interchangeable – swapped freely and without care from day to day. Ironically, while the words point the finger at the fickleness of women, it’s the Duke’s own infidelity that is betrayed here in a number that has the practised gloss of a serial seducer.
Rigoletto is on stage at Glyndebourne 11 October – 2 November before touring to Canterbury, Milton Keynes, Liverpool, Woking and Norwich.
Image credits: Rigoletto header, painted collage by Shadric Toop | La traviata, Festival 2014, photo by Richard Hubert Smith | Madama Butterfly, Tour 2016, photo by Clive Barda