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Rigoletto: A World Class Performance Of Love And Hate - Live

Rigoletto: A World Class Performance Of Love And Hate - LiveNews Review

Review – By Selwyn Manning, all images by Neil Mackenzie.

Rigoletto: Performed by the NBR New Zealand Opera at Auckland's ASB Theatre on Thursday June 7, 2012.

LiveNews.co.nz - Rigoletto is a story of characters whose worlds share a time and place, but are as apart as if experienced in parallel. It is a story about the simplicity of innocence and the complexity of corruption and how happy endings do not always come to those who deserve them.

Pivotal to this story is Rigoletto, a character close to the centre of power, where the Duke and his desires control all who come before him. He is admired by his Courtiers as he is handsome and powerful. They seek to protect the Duke from the consequence of his conquests and administer the law to dispose of those who challenge the immorality of his philandering.

In this performance of Rigoletto, the Duke is portrayed as a state leader drunk on power, driven by lust, and unconcerned for the simple hopes of those he preys upon. There are strong parallels to modern day leaders, like Italy's former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi whose pursuits are legendary.

Within this world of prestige and allurement, Rigoletto, the point-man, is unconcerned. The Duke's abuse of women seems not to affect Rigoletto. And if it did, what would it matter, as a deformed pawn, with a clever whit, no one takes Rigoletto seriously anyway. Except perhaps himself, and one other, the secret thing that he prizes most in this world, his innocent daughter Gilda. But for Rigoletto, he too lives in a parallel world where his interaction with corruption seems distant and unconnected to the innocence and beauty of his private home life.

For the Duke, Rigoletto's purpose is to lure women into the court of power where they can be prayed upon. The Duke's appetite for their flesh is insatiable and his motive is one dimensional. His method of entrapment varied and complex, an experienced pursuer the Duke moulds his method operandi to the wants of his victims, presenting as the focus of their own desire. He's a master of presenting as a figure of their hope, while hiding his true being behind the blessings of a handsome veneer. The Duke is as dishonest as is a hunter who asserts an empathy for his prey.

Rigoletto's indifference to Count Monteroni's outrage ends with a curse being cast. The Count had discovered Rigoletto facilitated a meeting between the Duke and his daughter, leading to her being ravished and exposed and becoming a public disgrace.

The Count's curse becomes an obsession for Rigoletto. It eats away at him, causing Rigoletto for the first time to realise with intensifying unease that the parallel worlds within which he lives will most certainly soon collide.

As the drama unfolds, mood is accentuated brilliantly through moving graphics. Crows flock, lurk, and peer from outside looking in on the tragedy through a paned window. As the story deepens its sinister threads, the crows just like the audience are drawn in from the sidelines almost into centre-stage, compelled by their lust for our sense of distaste. It's as though the crows sense our darkness, are driven by an appetite for it, they stare at us perhaps representing the shadows that dwell within ourselves, the thoughts and choices that distort our human condition.

Rigoletto is about how things can go awry when we give in to darkness. The moral is contemplated from varied forms: from the unbridled want of the corruptor, the simplistic hopes of the innocent, the power of a victim's desire to unleash vengeance after enduring an age of pent up hatred for those who mock and control.

As the Duke's greed and self-gratification is satisfied through the demise of others, the dreaded crows return, drawn to the window and to the depths of our human awfulness as a shark is to blood. Their attention oscillates from distant inattention to one becoming of a harbinger of doom.

It is a brilliant story, whose moral is multilayered. It is as relevant to today as it was to the 19th century.

Beyond this, the music, the score, is Verdi at his best.

The beauty of the Duke's arias connect to the character's popularity and his physical appeal, while masking the ugliness of his true nature and purpose. Mexican supremo, Rafael Rojas, even while suffering a mild illness causing him to abandon his aria at the beginning of Act II, performed the role superbly. His acting lent one to imagining that they were suddenly privy to the excesses of Berlusconi himself.

Rigoletto, performed by Australian Warwick Fyfe, wore the complexity of his character's turmoil upon every note and gesture. As the central figure in this Verdi tragedy, Fyfe delivered with a powerful performance that was always going to end in tears. His reward was thunderous applause returned from a usually conservative Auckland audience.

Australian operatic sensation, Emma Pearson performed the role of Gilda, Rigoletto's daughter. Hers was a performance of true delight. Her character's innocence shone through with every note, a beautiful rendition of the tragic figure, of a love-torn young woman who ended up wrecked by a love born of hope, and brought down by hatred and the actions of the very one who sought to protect her.

Other highlight performances included those of Cantabrian, Rodney Macann, who played Count Monterone who brought a lifetime of operatic high achievement to the role. And there was also the Egyptian bass baritone and operatic sensation, Ashraf Sewailam, who performed the role of the assassin, Sparafucile. It was a commanding performance acted with ease, where Sparafucile's world of allurement and death drew both the Duke and Rigoletto into his sinister embrace. Ashraf Sewailam's deep vocals portrayed a world of darkness, sleaze and shadows from where he held one of the longest bass baritone notes you will ever likely hear in a live performance. Brilliant.

Smaller but wonderfully performed roles included those of Aucklander, Kristin Darragh performing Maddalena; Australian, James Clayton performing Count Ceprano; and Cantabrian, Emma Fraser bringing a touch of class to the role of Countess Ceprano. And of course the Chapman Tripp Choir was brilliant.

The NBR New Zealand Opera performance of Rigoletto is simply wonderful. It has all the hallmarks of a world class act, Verdi's powerful score brought to life by the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, a fabulous set, and what is an amazingly clever choreographed juxtaposition between the 19th century and our contemporary times.

    If in Auckland you still have time to experience Rigoletto's NBR NZ Opera performance at The Edge's newly refurbished ASB Theatre at the Aotea Centre.

    Remaining performance times include:
    June 13, 15, and 17.

    You can still purchase tickets and I thoroughly recommend that you do so. See:

    Auckland: The Edge, Tel 0800 BUYTICKETS (0800 289 842) or www.the-edge.co.nz

    Group Bookings
    Opera for Groups offers great incentives for social or corporate groups, including a 10% discount on each ticket for groups of 10 or more people plus one ticket free for every 10 purchased. Call The NBR New Zealand Opera for more information.

    Further information: www.nzopera.com

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