Thursday, 16 June 2011

Review of Rigoletto at Grange Park Opera

Sunday 12th June saw the picnic-ers at Grange Park Opera deluged with rain, but inside the opera house there was a nicely warming perfomance of Verdi's Rigoletto. Daniel Slater's production was first seen at Grange Park Opera's other home at Nevill Holt.

Slater and his designer Angela Davies set the opera in 1950's Los Angeles with the Duke as a corrupt Police chief. Inevitably the production owes a lot to Jonathan Miller's Mafioso production of the opera for ENO. And like Miller's production, Slater does not really find a convincing role for Rigoletto though Damiano Salerno's performance did much to help. Salerno is a young Italian baritone with a nicely focussed, quite light but with a lovely top. His Rigoletto was well worth the entrance fee on its own. Perhaps he had a tendency to sing over loudly at the top, but he gave Rigoletto a darkness and intensity which was compelling. I suspect that his voice still needs time to fully grow into itself, but in a small-ish house like Grange Park it was perfect.

His Gilda was Laura Mitchell, tall and attractive she sang Gilda's fioriture with apparent ease and confidence, ensuring that the role was more than a canary. She and Salerno manage to make something touching of their duets and their relationship gave the performance some impetous.

The Duke was Marco Panuccio, a suitably swaggering character, clearly with a nice line in chatting up girls. His voice had a bit of a tendency to spread at the top which gave him character and intensity, but wouldn't be to everyone's taste. He made a highly personable Duke, and brought clarity and differentiation between his roles as the Duke and the Duke as student.

The smaller roles were well taken with Andrew Greenan's Monterone impressing with both force and intensity. I am not sure whether it made sense to have Monterone as an orthodox Jew, with Rigoletto's home displaying a prominent menorah. It didn't seem to be developed enough, though no damage was done to the drama either.

Under Toby Purser's lively direction the orchestra were on good form.

The production was attractive and serviceable. Whilst Slater didn't quite convince me that it made sense setting the opera in the milieu of a 1950's Los Angeles police station. That said, Slater drew some strong performances from his cast with Damiano Salerno standing out in the title role.

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