Warwick Fyfe as Rigoletto_Jeff BusbyAustralia baritone Warwick Fyfe received broad acclaim as Alberich in The Melbourne Ring Cycle in 2013. Now he takes on Verdi’s embittered court jester in a brand new production of Rigoletto at Arts Centre Melbourne for a limited season from 12 April.

Rigoletto is one of the greatest masterpieces of Italian Opera. The role of Rigoletto is relentless. The trick is to go to the edge but not tip over it…or vengeance from the opera gods will be swift!” says Principal, Warwick Fyfe.

Rigoletto is a dark story, one of jealously and revenge, where secrets are weapons and loved ones are best kept hidden away. Roger Hodgman is again teaming up with designer Richard Roberts after last season’s Don Pasquale.

Rigoletto’s stellar cast is sure to impress. Alongside Fyfe is Italian tenor Gianluca Terranova, who will claim one of the ultimate prizes in opera – to sing La donna è mobile as the infuriatingly debonair Duke – a role he has performed at La Scala and Arena di Verona.

Russian soprano Irina Dubrovskaya makes her Australian debut as Rigoletto’s daughter Gilda, having performed the role throughout Europe including the Philharmonic Hall in Moscow. Australian bass baritone Daniel Sumegi, last in Melbourne for the Ring, returns to take on the role of the assassin Sparafucile. Maestro Renato Palumbo, one of the most important Verdi conductors of his generation, will wield the baton.

“This is a dream cast. Most of them have done their roles before and they are all embracing a new production with great enthusiasm, artistry and a deep knowledge of the piece,” says Director Roger Hodgman.

Giuseppe Verdi was one of the preeminent opera composers of the 19th century. Rigoletto was written while he was in his 30s, and is often grouped with Il trovatore and La traviata.

The plot for Rigoletto was based on a play by Victor Hugo, which had been banned in France, so from the outset Verdi knew he would be battling the censors. After many rewrites and negotiations, Verdi then had to thwart unauthorised copying by keeping rehearsals under tight control.

The tenor was forbidden to even whistle La donna è mobile outside the rehearsal room! As predicted, the opening night at Venice’s Teatro La Fenice in 1851 was a huge success. Within a year Rigoletto had been performed across Italy, and by 1855 it had premiered in London and New York. It remains one of the most performed operas in the world today.

Rigoletto has been set recently in many different periods and places,” says Hodgman. “We decided to return to a very simple, stylised and fluid representation of the 16th century Mantua of its original libretto, with the aim of throwing the focus directly on the powerful story and characters of this most emotionally powerful of operas.”

State Theatre – Arts Centre Melbourne, St. Kilda Road, Melbourne
Season: 12 April – 10 May 2014
Bookings: 1300 182 183 or online at: www.artscentremelbourne.com.au

For more information, visit: www.opera.org.au for details.

Image: Warwick Fyfe as Rigoletto – by Jeff Busby