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Rigoletto review at Royal Opera House, London – ‘uneven and unfocused’

The cast of Rigoletto at Royal Opera House, London. Photo: Mark Douet The cast of Rigoletto at Royal Opera House, London. Photo: Mark Douet
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The first night of this revival of David McVicar’s staging of Rigoletto was dedicated to the memory of Dmitri Hvorostovsky, who was originally announced in the title role and has sadly died after a protracted illness at the age of 55. He will be hugely missed.

At 16 years old, the production itself is clearly a stayer, though it is not easy to see why. Michael Vale’s ugly sets offer no sense of place or period but are somewhat redeemed by Tanya McCallin’s Renaissance costumes.

Elsewhere, the show’s sexual shenanigans are over the top and simultaneously unconvincing – a particularly unfortunate combination – while some of the central cast cannot summon up sufficient dramatic detail in their roles to make Verdi’s tragic melodrama involving. The narrative never grips as it should.

As the accursed jester, Dimitri Platanias’ mighty baritone is impressive but his broad-brush-stroke approach short-changes the complexity of his character. Sofia Fomina has the notes for Gilda but generates little sympathy.

Michael Fabiano swaggers gamely as the Duke and his supercharged tenor radiates confident entitlement. He makes a highlight of his Act II aria.

Amongst secondary roles Andrea Mastroni’s full-toned bass helps him score highly as a suavely sinister Sparafucile, while Bulgarian mezzo debutante Nadia Krasteva almost equals his impact as his sister Maddalena. James Rutherford is a disappointingly woolly Monterone.

Conducting this time around is Alexander Joel, British-born but as yet better known on the continent. He does an effective job, but the precision and momentum that might help galvanise the show are not really evident.

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At its umpteenth revival David McVicar’s show feels uneven and unfocused