On Sunday the 23rd, we went to the Florentine Opera to hear a very well sung presentation of Verdi’s revenge tragedy, “Rigoletto.” We say "hear", because there wasn’t much to see. The set design, by Noele Stollmack, who also did last season’s modular “Magic Flute” set was compared by the Journal-Sentinel reviewer to an empty warehouse. To me, with it’s repeating square gray fabric panels and black metal railings, it more suggested a depressing modern office space, sans desks and computers. There were some good lighting effects, such as Sparafucile’s looming shadow, or the lightning in the storm scene, but mostly it just illuminated a big bare space, such that even the Duke and Maddelena’s rather explicit groping seemed diluted and distant.
The suggestion of modernity was carried through with the costumes, the men largely in Nehru suits, and the women in very simple dresses—but of course with inconsistencies. The Duke wears a brocade dressing gown when in propria persona, the jester Rigoletto’s duty uniform is a garish multi-colored coat that didn’t really amount to motley, and the assassin Sparafucile looks just as he ought in any classically garbed production: cape, boots, breeches, and tunic with his dagger at his belt. If he were matching the rest, he should have been in a “wise guy” suit, or maybe a black leather jacket and chains. Sigh.
Acting was generally adequate, but Luis Ledesma, who played Rigoletto, was annoyingly inconstant as to his physical acting. Both his limp and his hunchbacked stance faded in and out. Early in the show, he tended to exhibit a spastic twitch, which eventually went away entirely and was not missed. There was one bit I did particularly like: as Gilda (Georgia Jarman) relates the story of her seduction by the Duke (Arturo Chacon-Cruz), Rigoletto writhes in discomfort, making it appear that he has heard this story before, but from a co-conspirator’s viewpoint.
The singing was overall very good. Ledesma is not the best Rigoletto we have heard, but did a satisfactory job. Both Jarman and Chacon-Cruz were very fine, effortlessly filling the hall with their rich and beautiful voices. They were well supported by Stephen Morscheck as Sparafucile, Audrey Babcock as Maddalena, the various small parts, and the opera men’s chorus (who, curiously enough, did not get a curtain call). Maestro Joseph Resigno had the opera orchestra under his usual confident direction and did good justice to Verdi’s gorgeous music. So, it was a good afternoon of listening: however, as our friend said, “I was able to read all the Supertitles, because there was nothing to look at.”