Feather in operatic cap
THE last time I saw Rigoletto was on a vast stage with a cast of thousands, more scene changes than a three-ringed circus, an orchestra that would shame the gates of heaven and enough technical wizardry to satisfy Bill Gates.
In contrast, the Mananan Opera Festival production at the Erin Arts Centre was perfection in miniature proving that less can truly be more.
Take a cast of six, a virtuoso musical director in the remarkable Kevin Thraves (who played the piano during this performance with such passion, he became a whole orchestra) and an inspired director in Stefan Janski who truly loves his material, and you have the ingredients for an astonishing production that used the talents of the artists to their greatest advantage.
Sung in English, the direction by Stefan Janski, head of opera for the Northern College of Music in Manchester was sparing and so allowed the music to lead the way through the story of the cursed jester and his desire for revenge for his wronged daughter which backfires horribly allowing the cast to not only produce some very fine singing but also some touching and engrossing acting.
Janski included among his seasoned professionals island amateur Niall Howell-Evans who made his festival debut in opera as the assassin Sparafucile. He blended seamlessly with Craig Smith as the titular jester, John Pierce as the womanising Duke of Mantua, Charlotte Kinder as Rigoletto’s ruined daughter Gilda, Antoni Sotgui as Gilda’s treacherous nurse Giovanna and also as Maddelena, Sparafucile’s sister who seduced the Duke and created the plan to murder Gilda.
Smith made a wonderfully tragic Rigoletto; helpless and humiliated by the Duke’s treatment of his daughter and planning revenge doomed to fail tragically. He has a mournful face that made me doubt his ability to crack a joke as a Court Jester but I definitely believed his pain and misery as the plot intensified.
Pierce had a whale of a time as the vile seducer, his Duke was a rollicking randy rogue who rogered half the cast gleefully and sang La Donna Mobile with gusto and a huge amount of hypocrisy considering he was the one taking advantage of the ladies and not the other way round.
Having said that, Kinder sang an incredibly sexy aria (“Gualtier Maldè!... Caro nome”) to the Duke that would have made Verdi blush.
She is a very beautiful girl with a lovely voice and it was easy to see why the Duke and her father were at such odds over her, although poor Gilda was soon put into the shade by the gorgeously pouty Antonia Sotgui, whose murderous gypsy girl decided Gilda’s fate.
The costumes and set were well thought out and made good use of the small stage, although scene changes did take a while.
This was a lovely production of a great favourite and is a feather in the cap of the Mananan International Festival Opera and the organisers.
I love opera and really can’t wait until next year. Any chance of Pagliacci?
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Weather for Isle of Man
Wednesday 22 May 2013
Temperature: 6 C to 12 C
Wind Speed: 24 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 6 C to 11 C
Wind Speed: 32 mph
Wind direction: North west