Opera review: Scottish Opera - Rigoletto
SCOTTISH OPERA: RIGOLETTO THEATRE ROYAL, GLASGOW ****
FIRST and foremost is the music. That appears to be the sure-footed maxim behind Scottish Opera's new production of Verdi's Rigoletto, which enjoys a heightened sense of musicality under the brilliant Swedish conductor Tobias Ringborg.
He energises the Scottish Opera Orchestra in a way few conductors have in recent times. Does it have something to do with the unorthodox distribution of the instruments in the pit? Probably yes, to the extent that the side-grouped woodwind emerge with engaging character, and the more openly visible strings at the start of Act 3 are luscious and sensational.
Ringborg's achievement is one deep-rooted in his understanding of the score, which he amazingly conducts from memory, and from which he elicits a sense of punchy, original theatricality that is significantly sharper than Matthew Richardson's unspectacular, occasionally innocuous production.
Just a word on that staging. It won't offend, even the saucy bits. It is hugely derivative in its dated style and passing allusions – anything from the Clockwork Orange bowler hats and masks of the male chorus to a music-hall freak of a Rigoletto.
It has its moments, however, thanks to some fine performances, among them Edgaras Montvidas' towering and manful portrayal of Duke, superbly sung and every bit the lucky survivor. As Gilda, Nadine Livingston gives one of her best performances so far with Scottish Opera, thrilling and passionate. Eddie Wade presents a strangely detached Rigoletto, but for all the right reasons.
I left with Verdi's glorious music ringing in my ears, proof of where the real magic of opera lies: in the notes of the score.
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