Cher Public

Jest the way you are

I’m happy to report that Rigoletto from the 30 DVD Tutto Verdi set from the Teatro Regio di Parma is a blockbuster. (My first two, Alzira and Stiffelio, were duds and I was begining to think this collection was on the level with those $.99 classical music DVD’s you find in bins at the A&P .)

This production features a well known cast (Leo Nucci, Nino Machaidze) giving state of the art performances. The Parma production is attractive, colorful and fairly traditional, occasionally turining quite racy. The opening scene,in the Duke’s chamber, features a king size bed center stage on which our libertine mauls toothsome female supernumeraries (full female frontal nudity! ) throughout the scene. Guests are clad as ancient Greek nymphs and satyrs, adding to the Dionysian effect.

Director Stefan Vizioli adds some unusual riveting touches such as having the Duke humping an available lady right after, and in full view of Monterone after the “Maledizione,{ a rather effective way of saying “F you” to the vengefulfFather. Vizioli also has Rigoletto tear off his Jester’s cap during his declamation of “Io vo mia figlia!”

Right before the “Cortigiani” aria in Act II, the courtiers mimic his humpback and mock him during the aria and at the end Marullo places the cap firmly back on his head, a rather effective way of showing the courtier’s indifference and putting him in his place. True, the dramatic tension is broken at times by the artist’s acknowledgement of vociferous applause, and Nucci and Machaidze reprise the Act II Vengeance duet. The soprano caps off both versions with stunning high E-flats. But that’s what make viewing opera in Italy fun.

The main reason for purchasing this version is Nucci’s Rigoletto, the finest I’ve seen. Though he’s well into his 60’s at the time of this performance, his voice retains considerable power and color. Additionally, he brings a good deal of insight into the character: it’s a very haunted, haunting portrayal and he shifts seamlessly from his Jester’s duty into a frightening glimpse into what is an intensly neurotic character.

Machaidze as Gilda matches him blow for blow. She is the youngest looking Gilda in memory and tosses off “Caro nome” seamlessly. I’ve been a fan for a number of years, being a regular LA Opera goer, remebering her debut in L’elisir years ago. Francesco De Muro as the Duke is a mixed blessing. He’s a real hottie, resembing a 30ish Sardinian Keanu Reeves and fits well into the production. His sweet focused lyrical voice often seems overparted and strained, negotiating the Duke’s more florid passages rather than nailing them.

As Sparafucile, Marco Spotti is a knockout, a chilling performance. The bass looks seven feet tall, like Lurch from The Addams Family and makes as sleazy and degenerate an assassin as one could hope for. The Parma forces are led with great spirit by Massimo Zanetti.

I fully realize most of my readers probably have dozens of choice to choose from with this being one of the most popular of Verdi’s works. Give this one a try to sample a great baritone of the old school in his late prime.

  • semira mide

    This was part of the “Opera in Cinema” series a number of years ago, and I had a chance to see it in the theater. I’ve seen Rigoletto many times, but Nucci’s portrayal this time is quite riveting.

    Although it is not quite $.99 at the A&P, this series ( Tutto Verdi) has been offered at Italian news stands- 2 DVD’s in a package, new combination (every 14 days?) for a price of about 5 Euros.

  • bassoprofundo

    “…gave a state-of-the-art performance.”

    interesting. I’ve only ever heard this expression applied to inanimate objects, I didn’t know it made sense with things people do as well.

    “You just gave me a state-of-the-art kiss.”

  • danpatter

    Off topic, but I just wanted to be sure our Doyenne was aware that Licia Albanese turns 100 in just a few days. I’m sure La Cieca will wish to mark this occasion. (Sorry, I can’t get the TIP button to work).

  • Milady DeWinter

    “State of the art” vocal performances, indeed. A curiously corporate way to describe singers.
    Maybe Mr. Naddle means that Machaidze in 2008 was gloriously on-track but now, five years later, sounds more like Rosalind Plowright as the Mother in Hansel and Gretel.

    • oedipe

      “State of the art” vocal performances is a perfectly appropriate way to describe a fashionably generic, standardized style of singing, practiced by a few jet-set stars, and preferred by an ever increasing number of opera fans.

      • Milady DeWinter

        Oh, I see. So Machaidze’s shopworn vocal wares are still “state of the art”. Good point. I think I now DO rather like that expression. Thank you!

        • Gualtier M

          I heard good things about Machaidze’s Musetta at Salzburg(?) recently. It made me wonder if she is miscast as a leggiero coloratura. Machaidze might do better as a full lyric (her voice is big) in a slightly lower placed tessitura.

          I have to say that on the evidence of her Met Gilda’s there is a voice there. But it was rimmed with metal and the coloratura was labored in places. However the basic voice was a good one and big with projection for large house. She was also a winning, giving, generous stage performer. Maybe Nino needs to look into Violetta and then segue into Mimi, Liu and even Manon.

    • Nerva Nelli

      Rosalind Plowright continues to light up the North American stage! What WOULD we do without her???

      Richard Strauss : Salome
      1, 3m, 7, 9 Nov 2013
      Portland Opera
      Conductor George Manahan
      [No Brit available???]
      Producer Stephen Lawless

      Salome Kelly Cae Hogan [No Brit available???]
      Herodias Rosalind Plowright
      Herodes Alan Woodrow

      • Rosalind Plowright continues to light up the North American stage! What WOULD we do without her???

        Hire Gil Wechsler?

        • Gualtier M

          This is Portland Opera and actually Herodias might be a good fit for Roz at this point. It often goes to over the hill sopranos (Rysanek, Gwyneth Jones and Linda Roark Strummer at NYCO). There is a high B flat in there (not that Roz will shine there). Also I must mention that Alan Woodrow is also a Brit. BTW: Richard Berkeley-Steele was a decent Herod at NYCO and also a good Laca at the Met in a second cast “Jenufa”. Rosalind Plowright also scored as the Kostelnicka that night. She is a good artist dramatically. Plowright needs to look into Mme. de Croissy or Mère Marie in “Dialogues”. That is about her speed right now.

          • armerjacquino

            Alan Woodrow is Canadian.

          • oedipe

            Plowright needs to look into Mme. de Croissy

            Well, she HAS already: she will be singing Mme de Croissy at the Théâtre des Champs Elysées in December. I would have preferred Nadine Denize or Sylvie Brunet.

          • Nerva Nelli

            Gualtier --*seriously*, dude:

            Rosalind Plowright’s Met debut as the Kostelnicka was over ten years ago. I was present and what she “scored” (in any positive sense) eluded me. Not a good evening vocally or dramatically for her. Of course Fiend and Billngsgsate brought her back for Gertrud, of which JJ in January 2008 accurately wrote:

            “The presence of the voiceless Rosalind Plowright in the supporting role of Gertrud demonstrates the folly of the Met’s notoriously Britcentric artistic administration. Surely there are dozens of equally over-the-hill American mezzos who could have shrieked the role just as atonally.”

            It is now 2013. At 64 she is at a stage of never-quite-was-has-been-dom, kind of like when Suliotis re-emerged to do Prokofiev’s Fata Morgana and such.

            We have Our Own Vicki Livengoods and Linda Roark-Strummers on this continent, plus the likes of Judith Forst, still a good singer. Why does an Oregon opera company need to be paying the travel and visa fees for a Rosalind Plowright Herodias?

            • Camille

              Recently heard Linda Roark-Strummer in that Mese Mariano mess at the Spoleto Festival. There is very little left for her to squawk with now, I am very sorry to say. Even in a comprimaria role, or perhaps it was more a second lead supporting part, it was just an unacceptable level of singing. I was disappointed as never had the chance to hear her in her heyday and hoped, perhaps, to collect some shards at the base of the Parthenon. Alas….

              About Ms. Plowright, I am sorry to agree that the voice was what it was, als Gertrud, but she did compensate somewhat with a lively stage presence. I DID happen to see her in her heyday, as Medora in the early eighties San Diego Opera production of Il Corsaro, and that was “tutt’altra cosa”.

            • armerjacquino

              Camille: I remember reading an interview with June Anderson about that CORSARO production, along the lines that everyone was expecting the two sopranos to tear each other’s hair out, and there was disappointment when they got on really well. I wonder if they thought they’d both still be working 30 years on?

              Nerva: the Suliotis comparison is interesting. I don’t think Plowright, good though she was in her brief prime, ever managed anything as thrilling as prime Suliotis. On the other hand, even in her undistinguished mezzo phase, she’s never done anything as upsettingly voiceless as Suliotis’ Zia Principessa with Freni. Call it a draw.

            • Nerva Nelli

              Agreed, Armer. Was thinking in terms of sopranos who were acclaimed THE NEXT BIG THING for maybe 2 years…

              I never seek out Plowright, whereas I stil enjoy the Suliotis NABUCCO, despite Gobbi’s hoarse shouting and the dull Cava (surely Ghiaurov was intended for that recording…)

            • grimoaldo

              Plowright’s performance years and years ago in Sicilian Vespers at ENO in the same production used at the Met, basically just a staircase, was utterly magnificent and put her into the “all-time greats” in my mind just on the strength of that one performance. That must be nearly thrity years ago.
              She never came close to doing anything that good again in my opinion. She was given a lot of huge assignments by ROH after that, Senta, Medea, Trovatore Leonora, which she could not handle, got bad reviews, seemed to disappear for a while and came back as a character mezzo.
              She did make a very good Fricka in Walkure with Terfel. I offer no opinion as to whether she should be appearing in Oregon.

  • Milady DeWinter

    GualtierM, kidding aside, I agree with you. I will give Ms. Machaidze points for having a certain vocal charisma and “face”, and she’s of course, lovely, and good onstage. I think the higher coloratura parts are now beyond her and she has a brighter future in the heavier roles.