Edinburgh Playhouse
26th March 
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Ellen Kent, celebrating 23 years of opera and ballet, brings one of her most dramatic and challenging operas to the Edinburgh Playhouse. Rigoletto has been directed and staged as close to Verdi’s original concept as possible, with an abundancy of naked ladies complemented by many an elegant costume. Behind these, grandiose sets  whisk us back to the decadence of The Renaissance period.  Indeed, one easily imagines imagine how Rigoletto would have looked when first performed in Venice in 1851.
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The story is based on Le roi s’amuse (the king amuses himself) by Victor Hugo. Sung in  lovely Italian, we English-speakers can follow the nuances of the plot quite easily through subtitles. The cast from The Cisinau National Opera were amazing especially Maria Tonina as Gilda, who really shone. This is the opera they tried to ban as it exposed the decadent behavior of the powers-that-be at court. I really enjoyed this, & was pulled in to a story as relevant now as then, the draw of celebrity, the lust of the powerful and the damage it can bring on its victims. Highlights for me were the touching father-daughter duet in Act 1, & the death scene at the end of Act 3 in which Gilda tries to comfort her father… simply heartbreaking.
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Story
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Rigoletto opens with a lavish party in progress, the Duke of Mantua taking pleasure as and when he can find it. Rigoletto, the Duke’s jester, provides a commentary on the Duke’s actions. Monterone, whose daughter has been seduced by the Duke and derided by Rigoletto, issues a curse upon them both. Rigoletto is tormented by Monterone’s words and upon returning home is accosted by an assassin, Sparafucile. He warns the jester he will need his services soon. Arriving home  Rigoletto is met by Gilda his daughter whom he guards jealously. The Duke has already spied Gilda at church and wants to claim her despite discovering she is Rigolettos daughter.  With Rigoletto gone Mantua steps forward with a passionate vow of love, now returned by Gilda. Mantua’s courtiers are gathered at Ceprano’s house opposite, the gang then trick a returning Rigoletto into being blindfolded.  They carry off Gilda thinking her to be Rigoletto’s lover. Rigoletto searches anxiously, too late realising she must be with the courtiers and therefore the Duke. Gilda appears full of remorse and Rigoletto plots the Duke’s downfall.
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He now enlists the help of Sparafucile and brings gilda to a tavern to see the Duke in action with his “new love” Maddalena,  Sparafucile’s sister and “in on the plot.” As the Duke proceeds with his wooing, Gilda dispairs.  Maddalena has fallen for the Duke and wants to spare his life, Sparafucile replies that if anyone calls at the inn before midnight can be murdered and substituted for the Duke’s body. Gilda resolves to sacrifice herself and enters the tavern….atmidnight. Rigoletto returns to collect the body and gloats upon it until hearing the Duke’s voice in the distance, tearing the sack open he finds Gilda stabbed and about to die. Monterone’s curse has been fulfilled.
Reviewer : Angela Nisbit
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