To see Verdi’s Rigoletto at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, one no longer has to go as far as London. All one has to do is to go to a local cinema to watch a Live Relay of the performance.

One advantage is that while viewing one can relax in one’s khaki shorts instead of having to suffocate in one’s elegant Sunday best. In some ways the situation is not so different from viewing an opera’s television transmission at home. Another advantage, though, is the close-ups that bring one within touching distance of the actors. One more advantage is the cast of superstars assembled for this performance, such as is rarely encountered at the local opera or at standard television opera transmissions.

In the title role, Dimitri Platanias was an overpowering stage personality. His sonorous baritone was even darker and more powerful than Sparafucile’s not-quite-so-black bass, represented by Matthew Rose. Rigoletto’s final outcry “La maledizione” was the performance’s real, powerful climax. Vittorio Grigolo’s radiant lyric tenor impersonated a glorious Duke of Mantua, with abundant subtle and impressive vocal nuances, making everybody, on stage and in the audience, fall in love with him.

Ekaterina Siurina, as Gilda, was a rare case of an irresistibly lovely, young-sounding soprano matching her looks, both of which were obviously not wasted on either the Duke or the audience. Christine Rice’s warm, suggestive mezzo-soprano sounded just as seductive as Maddalena is supposed to be.

David McVicar’s direction and Michael Vale’s sets were moderately realistic without crowding the stage with unnecessary details. In the dying scene, though, the conventional tomato ketchup was not renounced, rendering this sad situation unappetizing instead of tragic.

Conducted by John Eliot Gardiner, the ROH Orchestra played with enormous energy as well as subtlety, pointedly emphasizing the musical drama with utmost force and sensitivity.

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