A revival of an opera production that has already been performed is welcome, provided that the original production was an excellent one.
Director David Pountney’s production of Verdi’s Rigoletto, however, is one best forgotten, in particular the nonsensical acting on a dinner table in Acts I and III, Gilda’s singing her love aria Caro nome (“Dear name”) on top of a tree that inexplicably grows in her room, and the Duke going to sleep on the roof of Maddalena’s house in a stormy night of thunder and lightning.
The redeeming feature of this performance was the singers. In the title role, Carlos Almaguer’s overshadowing stage presence, forcefully resounding baritone and intensely moving expression made him a Rigoletto of one’s wishful dreams. His furious aria Cortigliani (“Courtiers!”) was a non plus ultra of despair and rage, and so was his declaration of revenge in his duet with Gilda. His final shattering outcry, La maledizione (“The curse!”), might well have been the performance’s climax if it had not been drowned in the orchestra’s boisterous din.
Hila Baggio’s clear, bright soprano made her a lovable Gilda. With growing maturity this young singer will no doubt realize that this gentle, delicate character requires a softer, caressing, not so hard and assertive-sounding voice production to do justice to the frailty and warmth of Gilda’s personality.
As the Duke, Ivan Magri’s radiant tenor, still sounding indifferent in his opening aria Que stao quella, later warmed up to impersonate an impassioned lover, and then an easygoing playboy in his aria La donna e mobile, intensively holding his high notes so long as to make the audience hold its breath.
It was unfair to Vladimir Braun to cast his baritone for the part of the assassin Sparafucile, which is a bass role.
Though he indeed reached the low notes, they tended to vanish into thin air, and sounded too friendly, without conveying this character’s evil.
The Israel Opera Chorus was a full-fledged hero of this performance. With perfect cohesion, pure intonation and forceful expression it persuasively represented the plotting courtiers.
Conducted by Daniel Cohen, the Symphony Orchestra Rishon Le-Zion sensitively contributed drama, tension, changing emotions and flexible liveliness to the events on the stage. The restraint of its volume in order to let the singers be heard properly has still to be achieved.