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.