English National Opera’s new season includes two Christopher Alden productions that originated at COC. Die Fledermaus is brilliant and a must see. Rigoletto may be a bit more of an acquired taste though it certainly has its strong points. The London cast for Fledermaus doesn’t look as strong (to me) as the Toronto cast but the Rigoletto has the estimable Quinn Kelsey in the title role, Barry Banks as the Duke and Anna Christy as Gilda.
Last night I went back to the Four Seasons Centre to take another look at Christopher Alden’s Rigoletto. I was up in Ring 5 this time so quite a different viewpoint and it was the opening night cast singing. I now have a better understanding, I think, of what Alden is driving at and some of the stage action that was just puzzling first time around made more sense. Certainly the role played by Giovanna (Megan Latham) makes much more sense seen as the count’s procuress. The interpretation of Sparafucile is also interesting; part commedia perhaps and reminiscent of the quack in L’Elisir d’Amore with a sinister twist. If we take as valid Alden’s assertion that Rigoletto’s separation of personal and public life is a delusion then having all the action played out in “public” makes a certain kind of sense, though then I have to ask why, uniquely, the scene where Gilda confesses to her father what we (and he) already know, that she has been debauched by the duke, has to be between the two of them is a bit of a mystery. So, all in all, I still think it’s an interesting and very beautiful but not quite “of a whole” production. I much prefer that the COC take some chances even if not everything comes off 100% and I shall look forward to Mr. Alden’s next production here.
Musically there wasn’t a lot to choose between this cast and the one I saw on Friday. Quinn Kelsey is a very powerful Rigoletto and he was a little more restrained in the acting department than Lester Lynch. All in all a very fine performance. Dmitri Pittas was solid as the duke but I think David Lomeli has a more Italianate sound. Ekaterina Sadovnikova is a rather different Gilda to Simone Osborne. Her voice is lighter coloured and perhaps more classically suited to this role and there were none of the top end insecurities that some commented on on opening night. She did seem a bit underpowered in the duets with Kelsey but was fine singing solo. Once again I was pleased/surprised by how good the sound is up in the nosebleeds.
Bottom line, I still think this is a production worth seeing. The house wasn’t full either night I went and, in particular, there were plenty of seats last night in Ring 5. I got a second row dead centre seat as a “rush” ($22) and there were still OK seats available for that price half an hour before curtain.