Thursday 21 November 2019

Review: Rigoletto by the Opera Theatre Company is a 'knockout winner'

Pat O'Kelly

Never a shrinking violet when it comes to adaptations, Opera Theatre Company is currently touring Verdi’s Rigoletto.

I catch it at Dublin’s O’Reilly Theatre where Selina Cartmell directs this innovative production in a new translation by Marina Carr.

Their conception updates 16th century Mantua to a murky drug and crime-ridden Dublin underworld with little left to the imagination in matters of sexual gratification.

Marina Carr’s libretto seems to run smoothly over the contours of Verdi’s lines but indistinct diction renders it largely indecipherable!

In Alex Lowde’s detailed design, Ms Cartmell centres most of the action in the Duke’s boxing ring gym complete with bikini-clad ‘masseuses’ and frequently used portaloo!

She manages its limitations imaginatively albeit with a surfeit of incessant movement. Besides, Gilda’s fetish with various-sized yellow bunnies is over the top even if it explains the Duracell ad tiresomely screened in advance.

But yet, Ms Cardmell touches the heart at several points not least in Rigoletto and Gilda’s tender exchanges and the emotional turmoil of their father/daughter relationship.

Musically, Verdi is well served by conductor Fergus Sheil, his instrumental ensemble and trenchant chorus of thugs.

Vocally and physically, Bruno Caproni is the riveting Rigoletto with his awkwardly shuffling gait of his incisive dramatisation commanding one’s constant attention.

Bright-toned, if shrill, Emma Nash’s Gilda is beguilingly childlike with her Caro nome delicate yet staunch and, even stripped to his blue briefs, Luciano Botelho is the clear-voiced swaggering braggart Duke.

Despite the visual realism in ten ‘rounds’, the final bell signals Verdi to be the knockout winner.

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