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Glyndebourne - Rigoletto review: the melodies are so bewitching

PUBLISHED: 10:10 05 December 2019 | UPDATED: 10:10 05 December 2019

Glyndebourne Rigoletto. Picture: Glyndebourne Productions Ltd

Glyndebourne Rigoletto. Picture: Glyndebourne Productions Ltd

Richard Hubert Smith

With its seedy libertines and Hollywood glamour, the world of early American film is a perfect fit for the opera Rigoletto. Director Christiane Lutz finally makes sense of the action with this performance last night at the Norwich Theatre Royal.

Successive nights in the theatre have proved to me that Rigoletto is a tough story to tell.

Mantua seems oddly remote, and the melodies are so bewitching that it's all too easy to sit back and listen without paying much attention to what's going on.

The dangerous seduction duet in Act 1, for example: E Il Sol Dell' Anima contains some of the most beautiful tunes in opera. How could such perfect harmony be the harbinger of anything bad?

In extreme cases, it is possible to remain mesmerized until the corpse is being dragged around the stage in the final Act. Good heavens, how did that get there? - you wonder.

But never fear, Glyndebourne's new production makes the whole thing clear.

In this version, Rigoletto is a film-star rehearsing for a silent movie. A clown in the Charlie Chaplin mold, he has all the stick-swinging know-how guaranteed to please the crowd. Nikoloz Lagvilava in the title role acts the buffoon as if he were born to it.

Despite all the fun, the nasty underbelly of the film world quickly asserts itself. There are gangsters and vendettas and goings-on that would make #MeToo take to twitter.

In this sinister place Rigoletto is a ring-master until the others work out his weakness. It's his adopted daughter. He becomes more and more paranoid about what may happen to her, especially after he is cursed by Monterone (Aubrey Allicock).

Vuvu Mpofu as his innocent child, Gilda, is wide-eyed in the face her father's sordid life. A lamb to the slaughter, it is the matter of a single song for the unscrupulous Duke (Matteo Lippi) to groom her and justify Rigoletto's fears.

After this, it's a slippery slope to tragedy.

In Christian Tabakoff's ingenious design, walls, cars, offices and bars all trolley on and off like scenes from a film set.

Conductor Thomas Blunt highlights the drama and keeps the pace ripping along.

You may also want to watch:

- Glyndebourne Rigoletto will also run at Norwich Theatre Royal on December 7

- Tickets are available for £10 - £58 from their website

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