I had another look/listen to the Canadian Opera Company’s Rigoletto Oct 17th in a performance that was substantially different from the cast that opened earlier this autumn:
- a different tenor
- a different soprano
- a different baritone
- a different conductor
Christopher Alden’s production is the star—not the singers—along with the flamboyant set & costumes by Michael Levine, re-framing the opera in a 19th century gaming room. I am not sure one needs to go so far as to call this Regietheater or “director’s theatre” but the concept is so powerful that it trumps vocal display.
Romance is irrelevant in this dark and cynical world (which I called “a man’s world” in my earlier review). At one point the audience guffaws during a love duet while the male chorus throw rose petals about the stage. Later, that chorus ostentatiously hide behind their newspapers –in that stuffy gaming room—while the Duke sings of love. The message is clear: that there’s no space for any genuine hope or despair, even as we admire the integrity of those such as Monterone who challenge this tyrannical world. Robert Pomakov makes more of the role than usual. One can’t take one’s eyes from him in either of his appearances. Lester Lynch won the audiences’ collective hearts with his passionate Rigoletto, a portrayal that was long on heart, and wonderfully over the top in its display of emotion.
I have to believe that the COC chose to put young soprano Simone Osborne in their second cast as Gilda because they did not want to pressure her unduly by giving her the responsibility of being in the lead cast. That strategy appears to be wise, as they carefully nurture the development of this young talent. While it’s too soon to make any predictions, Osborne belongs on this stage not because she’s Canadian, but because she’s so good. She brought a playfulness to her coloratura, power throughout, conviction to her portrayal and several impressive high notes. I can’t wait to see what roles she will assume in the years to come.
The Duke was portrayed by David Lomeli, a tenor with the vocal power to match Osborne, who attacked his high notes as fearlessly as he propositioned the many women he seduced throughout the evening. I couldn’t help liking him in spite of myself.
Rigoletto continues until Oct 22nd at the Four Seasons Centre.