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Review: Opera Australia’s Rigoletto at the Sydney Opera House

Reviewed by Priscilla Issa

Opera Australia’s enchanting and moving performance of Giuseppe Verdi’s timeless masterpiece, Rigoletto, is a true testament to the power of opera. In a captivating display of artistic prowess, the production showcases an exemplary cast whose talents transport the audience to a world of love, deceit, and turmoil. Under the baton of maestro Renato Palumbo, the orchestra was in fine form, supporting the singers as they executed some of opera’s most vocally challenging works. Palumbo’s expert guidance allows the solo voices to soar and the intricate orchestral tapestry to weave seamlessly throughout the performance. Furthermore, with the orchestra’s support, the chorus's rendition of "Zitti, zitti" is particularly noteworthy, as their harmonious voices blend seamlessly, enhancing the overall richness of the performance.

Palumbo’s interpretation of Verdi’s score is marked by an excellent balance of dynamics, highlighting the emotional nuances of the opera.

From the moment the curtain rises, the stage is set with an atmospheric and evocative design. Yeargan's intricate sets transport us to the opulent and corrupt court of Mantua, beautifully capturing the decadence of the era. As the lights dim and the haunting notes of Verdi's overture fill the theater, we are introduced to Ernesto Petti's Rigoletto, a complex character torn between his role as a jester and his unconditional love for his daughter, Gilda. Petti’s performance was at times playful, and at others poignant and passionate. In sum, his portrayal is nothing short of exceptional, as he navigates the emotional depths of Rigoletto with both vulnerability and fiery determination. His baritone exhibits a rich and resonant timbre, perfectly suited to convey Rigoletto’s complex range of emotions.

As the Duke of Mantua, Atalla Ayan dazzles with his powerful and versatile tenor voice. His rendition of "Questa o quella" exudes charm and seduction, capturing the Duke's predatory nature. While, at times, a little strained on the upper notes, Ayan's captivating stage presence keeps the audience spellbound throughout the performance, as he transitions from the seductive lover to the callous manipulator.

The heart of Rigoletto lies in the tragic love story between Gilda, played by the enchanting Stacey Alleaume, and the Duke. Alleaume's soprano soars effortlessly, infusing Gilda's arias with a delicate and emotive quality. Her rendition of "Caro nome" is a standout moment, where her voice blooms with innocence and vulnerability, capturing the purity of Gilda's love for the Duke. She delicately weaves her voice through intricate and languid melodies, displaying masterful control of dynamics and exquisite expression of love.

David Parkin's commanding presence as Monterone adds a touch of gravitas to the proceedings. With a resonant bass voice, Parkin infuses his character with righteous anger and curses Rigoletto, setting in motion the opera's inexorable descent into tragedy. His performance is captivating, showcasing the strength and depth of his vocal abilities.

As the opera hurtles towards its dramatic conclusion, Roberto Scandiuzzi takes the stage as the enigmatic assassin Sparafucile. His deep bass voice resonates throughout the theater, embodying the chilling essence of evil. His performance is marked by a commanding stage presence and a sense of foreboding, culminating in a powerful duet with Petti in "Pari siamo!". This spine-tingling encounter foreshadows the impending doom.

This revival of Elijah Moshinsky’s vision weaves a tapestry of musical brilliance and visual splendour, and is both timeless and engaging. His attention to detail and understanding of Verdi's libretto is evident in every scene. Moshinsky's staging choices create an atmosphere of tension and suspense, heightening the emotional impact of the opera's tragic twists and turns. Commendations to Shane Placentino, as revival director, for bringing Moshinsky’s vision back to life.

Opera Australia's production of Rigoletto is a resounding success, showcasing the remarkable talent of its cast and the cohesive vision of its creative team. This production is an unforgettable experience that immerses the audience in a world of passion and tragedy and stands as a true testament to the enduring power of Verdi's timeless masterpiece.

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