The misogyny in Verdi’s Rigoletto is given an added edge in Matthew Richardson’s timely revival of his 2011 production for Scottish Opera.
Mannequins, not dancers, waltz with the male courtiers in the Duke of Mantua’s orgiastic ball, while their naked and dismembered parts are strewn around his room where the courtiers bring him Gilda, the kidnapped daughter of Rigoletto, the Duke’s jester and procurer of female flesh.
Stephen Gadd provides a strong vocal account of the jester, stepping into the title role for the indisposed Aris Argiris, while Lina Johnson has both the notes and a seemingly effortless presence for Gilda. The duet between father and daughter before her abduction emphases her innocence while Gadd creates a strong sympathy for the embattled Rigoletto. But it is Gilda’s love duet with Adam Smith’s ruthless Duke that really allows Johnson to fill out the nuances and passion of the 16 year-old Gilda’s first love.
When Gilda eventually appears, shivering, from the Duke’s room, her shrinking away from the courtiers as they file past gives added credence to her view of the Duke as her saviour, rather than her rapist. Despite witnessing his seduction of the prostitute Maddalena (Sioned Gwen Davies), it adds credibility to Gilda’s final act of sacrifice.
It is a clever and thoroughly transparent staging which serves the plot while providing a chilling condemnation of the attitudes it portrays. The storytelling is enhanced by Jon Morrell’s effortlessly sliding abstract set and modern costumes.