Opera Review:Verdi’s Rigoletto

Israeli Opera Verdi: Rigoletto The Opera House, July 1.

Opera 150 (photo credit: Yossi Zwecker)
Opera 150
(photo credit: Yossi Zwecker)
On the whole, the Israeli Opera achieved an effective season’s end with Verdi’s Rigoletto.
Director David Pountney and set designer Stefanos Lazaridis seemed obsessed with the need to demonstrate originality at all cost, whether it made sense or not. Letting Gilda act in (and out of) a glass cage was fairly innovative, though also quite obvious.
Why Gilda should have sung her aria on the roof of her glass cage, however, remained a mystery. The secondary use of her cage as Maddalena’s trap in Act Three seemed to serve no other purpose than making good (?) use of a prop that was superfluous in the first place.
In the title role, Carlos Almaguer stole the show. His dark-timbred, powerful, magnificently expressive baritone, superb acting and persuasive identification with the role were profoundly moving. His anguish and rage in “Cortigliani” and vow of vengeance in his duet with Gilda were overpowering. His desperate outcry “La Maledizione” (the curse), the opera’s shattering climax, however, was deplorably overshadowed and rendered almost inaudible by the ungentlemanlike, boisterous orchestra.
As Gilda, Hila Baggio, blessed with an uncommonly beautiful, pure soprano, displayed excellently polished coloraturas.
Her voice sounded too assertive and sharp in the higher registers, though, for this gentle and lovable character. Determined to display her voice clearly and forcefully, she apparently does not (yet) know that profound emotions are conveyed most intensely and enchantingly by a soft, caressing voice. This luckily emerged, finally, in her death scene, which was genuinely moving, but might have been expressed earlier, in her love scenes.
In the role of the Duke, Jean-Francois Borras’ admittedly radiant tenor was mechanical and dry in his first aria.
Vladimir Braun’s bass-baritone sounded appropriately low as Sparafucile, but there was not much of this character’s menace and evil.
The Israeli Opera Chorus was a fullfledged hero of this performance. In the unisono as well as harmonic parts it contributed exciting drama and emotion.
So did the Symphony Orchestra Rishon Lezion, conducted by Daniele Callegari.