Rigoletto by Giuseppe Verdi, review: Glyndebourne Tour

Matteo Lippi and Vuvu Mpofu. Picture by Richard Hubert Smith
Matteo Lippi and Vuvu Mpofu. Picture by Richard Hubert Smith

My opera mad friend says it’s not the done thing to love Verdi. “Too accessible, too tuneful, too Italian.”

The Glyndebourne Tour’s production of Rigoletto was all of those. Clearly the national press reviewers bore that in mind, making sarcastic comments about director Christiane Lutz’s feminist take on a mucho macho tale of curses, a deflowered heroine, revenge and ultimately not a little blood.

But if you appreciate a high octane, storm force 12 blockbuster delivering glittering performances, memorable tunes and a can’t-take-your-eyes-off them cast, then this is for you. Premiered at Glyndebourne on October 11 and performed until November 2, this Rigoletto is a licence to thrill.

Sets and lighting are ingeniously manipulated to create the court, ducal estates and a stormy street where Rigoletto and his gorgeous daughter, Gilda hear her unfaithful lover serenade another woman.

Rigoletto was first performed in Venice in March, 1851 and at the time Verdi considered it his best work – a powerful psychological drama, love story and a thriller.

If you can beg or steal a ticket it’s worth waiting for the heartstopping La donna e mobile – a piece (Lutz says) you’ll hear in every pizza commercial.

A word here about the amazing Vuvu Mpofu who takes the female lead as Gilda. The young South African was recently announced as the recipient of Glyndebourne’s John Christie Award and she carries the principal’s role with confidence and elan.

But for me the star of the evening was Matteo Lippi, the power-hungry Duke of Mantua. His rippling tenor, and the equally sumptuous tones of Nikoloz Lagvilava as Rigoletto blaze brilliantly. Assassin Sparafucile is played by Oleg Budaratskiy, infusing the role with menace.

The cast also features soloists from the Glyndebourne Chorus, a crucial developing ground for emerging talent while British conductor Thomas Blunt adds this to laurels won during previous tour performances of Il Barbiere di Siviglia, L’elisir d’amore and La Cenerentola.

It poured outside but we floated to the car park, humming the takeaway pizza tune.

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