Rigoletto, Longborough Festival Opera, review: American 1920s setting works a treat

Longborough is one of the smaller country opera houses, yet one which continues to punch massively above its weight

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The Independent Culture

Rigoletto has certainly been updated before, most notably in Jonathan Miller’s ENO production set among the New York mafia. Here, award-winning director Caroline Clegg does a smart riff on that idea, setting Verdi’s opera in the machismo environment of 1920s America, experiencing the birth pangs of the American dream.

The Duke becomes ‘Duke’ the corrupt millionaire CEO of a new corporation, proudly displaying his sports cars, car paraphernalia, and other trophies including his women.

 It works a treat, aided by some glorious singing with Welsh tenor Robyn Lyn Evans as Duke rightly receiving prolonged applause. But, there was excellent singing too from English soprano Andrea Tweedale as Gilda and Austrian baritone Martin Kronthaler in the title role. If his Rigoletto is slow to impose a distinct personality on the production, that all changes in a chilling second half.

In the scene in which Gilda tells her father how she has been abducted by Duke’s cohorts, given to him for his pleasure and is now distraught with shame, yet still loves him, the anguish of both characters is palpable and painful.

The young Israeli conductor Gad Kadosh brought out the drama in the music with his brisk tempi and sensitive phrasing. Longborough is one of the smaller country opera houses, yet one which continues to punch massively above its weight.

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