Opera-Australia-Rigoletto-photo-by-Keith-SaundersOpera Australia Rigoletto photo by Keith SaundersSince it was first performed in the Sydney Opera house in 1991, the late Elijah Moshinsky’s production of Rigoletto has become one of the treasured gems of Opera Australia’s repertoire, together with his matchless production of La Traviata.

As with La Traviata, Moshinsky teamed with designer Michael Yeargan to create an environment in perfect harmony with events and characters portrayed in Verdi’s revered masterpiece.

Events take place in a lavish palace ballroom, in Rigoletto’s modest house and in the sleazy squalor of Sparafucile’s Inn. Yeargan’s revolving setting encapsulates all these while fascinating the eye and informing the storytelling.

Revival Director, Shane Placentino has taken advantage of the opportunities provided by Yeargan’s setting as well as the talents of his cast, many of whom are making their role debuts in this production, to enhance Moshinsky’s vision with insightful detailing, even managing to shorten the running time by removing the second interval.

Many fine singers have interpreted Verdi’s characters in this production, so it was particularly fascinating to experience the role debut of Italian baritone, Ernesto Petti. Vocally impressive and dramatically secure, Petti is mesmerising as the tortured clown and father, Rigoletto, whose efforts to shield his daughter Gilda from the decadence surrounding her, end in ultimate tragedy.

Stacey Alleaume adds lustre to her growing reputation as the youthful Gilda, dazzling with a beautifully shaped Caro Nome and tearing at the heartstrings in the famous quartet Bella figlia dell’amore.

Surely one of Opera Australia’s most versatile and accomplished singers, Sian Sharp revels in the dual roles of the maid Giovanna and Sparafucile’s sister and accomplice Maddalena; while mezzo-soprano Ruth Strutt impresses as the unfortunate Countess Ceprano.

However it is the male singers who have the best opportunities in this opera, and this production has a wealth of great male voices.

Brazilian tenor Atalla Ayan plays the Duke of Mantua who seduces Gilda, and, it appears, most of the other women in his court. He gets most of the hit arias including Questa o quella and La donna e mobile.

The celebrated Italian bass, Roberto Scandiuzzi is an unnerving presence as the creepy assassin, Sparafucile; while David Parkin, as the humiliated Duke Monterone, Luke Gabbedy (Marullo), Virgilio Marino (Borsa) and Anthony Mackey (Ceprano) as various of the Duke’s guests all add considerable strength to the great male choruses which are a feature of this opera.

The gilding on the lily was provided by the Opera Australia Orchestra which under the fastidious conducting of Verdi expert, Renato Palumbo, offered a lustrous performance to enhance the superb singing and ensure that this particular Moshinsky’s treasure will remain a treasured memory.

Joan Sutherland Theatre – Sydney Opera House, Bennelong Point, Sydney
Performance: Tuesday 13 June 2023
Season continues to 26 June 2023
Information and Bookings: www.opera.org.au

Image: Roberto Scandiuzzi as Sparafucile and Sian Sharp as Maddalena in Opera Australia’s 2023 production of Rigoletto at the Sydney Opera House – photo by Keith Saunders

Review: Bill Stephens OAM