Reviewed by Jan Dixon
This review is based on the opening night of Rigoletto on Wednesday 27th November 2019, performed by the Welsh National Opera at The Mayflower Theatre, Southampton. The Welsh National Opera was founded in 1943 by a group of people from across South Wales including miners, teachers and doctors and continues to perform across the UK with great success.
The music of Rigoletto was composed by Giuseppe Verdi and was first performed on 11 March 1851 in Venice. It is based on a play from the 1930’s by Victor Hugo. Rigoletto is an opera in three acts with the performance lasting approximately two hours and 30 minutes with two intervals.
This production of Rigoletto by James MacDonald was set in the 1960’s White House and was first performed in this setting in 2002. As the premise of the story is about the abuse of power in high places, this would seem quite relevant in the current climate, especially as it depicts a very male-dominated patriarchal society. However, at times this relatively modern setting did seem at odds with some of the sung dialogue and characters; as one of the main characters is a jester (Rigoletto) who believed he had been cursed. There was also reference to his daughter (Gilda) being told to ‘go back to Verona’.
There were five predominant vocalists, the Duke (David Junghoon Kim), Rigoletto (Mark S Doss), Sparafucile (Wojtek Gierlach), Maddalena (Emma Carrington) and Gilda (Haegee Lee). Each of these demonstrated their excellent vocal talent to great acclaim and receptiveness from the audience. The Duke’s well-known song La donna e mobile (Woman is fickle) was instantly recognisable and was sung with brilliance by David Kim. Gilda (Rigoletto’s daughter) had the sweetest of voices, effectively managing to portray through her relationship with the Duke her transition from innocent to sexually mature women. At times she did seem overshadowed through the power and resonance of Rigoletto’s (her father) vocals. The parts of Sparafucile and Maddalena supported the storyline well; with Maddelena effectively portraying her love for the Duke soulfully. The parts were well casted, with each character taking on their role with inspiration. At times the philandering persona of the Duke and his disregard for the outcome for his actions were hard to watch; as this was done so well by David Kim as to be believable. The sycophantic male hangers-on of his entourage were aptly portrayed; as was the complicit actions of Rigoletto.
The chorus was all male and demonstrated a very effective method of depicting a storm in the final act; singing off stage to mimic the sound of the wind and rain. Superb! The orchestra was excellent, very ably conducted by Alexander Joel.
Very highly recommended; definitely worth a 5 star rating!
The Mayflower Theatre is close to railway links with a variety of car parks close-by. It is advisable to check the nearby Southampton football club fixtures as this can have an impact on the volume of traffic entering/leaving Southampton. Do allow for this when travelling to the venue. The theatre itself has recently been refurbished and looked stunning, with comfortable seating and plenty of leg room. Staff were very welcoming with a high standard of customer care.
Tickets cost from £16 to £52 (booking fees may apply).
Welsh National Opera Rigoletto is at the Mayflower Theatre in Southampton from 27-30 November 2019, for more information or to book tickets visit www.mayflower.org.uk or call the box office on 02380 711811.
Mayflower Theatre, Commercial Road, Southampton, SO15 1GE | 02380 711811