This production of Verdi’s Rigoletto is a winning return to form for WNO.
The story of the jester Rigoletto’s attempted revenge on his master the Duke for the seduction of his daughter Gilda, the action is transposed to Washington DC in the sixties, evoked by the costumes and design, such as Gilda’s hairband and bobby socks, and a scene being set in the Oval Office.
The transposition recalls the figure of Kennedy, but also Trump and in general the current sharp focus on power and sexual abuse. Issues of race and disability also surface in relation to the figure of Rigoletto.
The singing by the three leads is wonderful – Mark S. Doss as Rigoletto, David Junghoon Kim as the Duke, and Marina Monzó as Gilda – with the latter especially sublime and an obvious hit with the audience.
Credit must also go to Emma Carrington for her robust and affecting performance as Maddalena, another victim of the Duke (pictured above with David Junghoon Kim).
The staging at particular moments is wonderfully atmospheric and creepy, such as the courtiers coming to kidnap Gilda wearing clown masks, recalling the unsettling effect of Batman’s Joker, and the tragic climax with mist and lightning bathing the stage.
The icing on the cake would have been a Duke as conventionally handsome as the characters say he is but in opera voice infinitely more important. Nonetheless this production is thoroughly recommended.
Until October 12 and then touring.
Main image: Mark S. Doss and Marina Monzó