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Saturday 21 April 2012

Rigoletto and La Fille du Regiment at the ROH

I am so behind with my reviews and have so little time at the moment, that I thought I'd just combine these. Both of these productions have been revived several times so I'll dispense with a long discussion of either. In any case I'm not a huge fan of either work so will keep it brief.

Last time I saw David McVicar's "brothel" Rigoletto (with Hvorostovsky and Ciofi) I quite enjoyed it, but this time the whole thing felt like a rather drab affair. Without McVicar to rehearse the cast, many scenes seemed to lack energy, and the orgy almost seems by wrote.

Dimitri Platanias was vocally completely up to the role of Rigoletto, but he completely failed to interract with anyone else on stage delivering all his lines facing the audience, sometimes not even inclined towards the person he was meant to be addressing. Not a terribly engaged performance then. He also didn't seem to get the point of the sticks at all - he was just walking around and moving the sticks, rather than using the sticks as a vital crutch and dragging his loping form around behind them. I only mention it because Hvorostovsky managed it so superbly last time, and its key to McVicar's conception. As I say, vocally Platanias was more than capable, but equally I was never drawn in.

Desirée Rancatore had apparently flown in that morning to replace a sick Ekaterina Siurina, and managed OK, though the top is over covered, and not always fully in gear. Yes, yes, it's hard to step in at such short notice, so let's not be too hard on her, I know, I know. Amazing that she managed to act as well as she did given that she almost certainly was just walked through the staging once in half an hour.

And onto Grigolo... What to say? The voice is certainly exciting, the top notes unstrained and ringing, and he certainly has a decent technique. But he has absolutely no taste or any hint of what might be appropriate, mangling rhythms, constantly flipping between pianissimo and fortissimo and always pushing the voice to past the point where it is beautiful. Acting wise too, he'll never make one gesture where five will do, and always the most clichéed hand sweeps and dancing lunges. In Act I it was almost laughable, but in Act II he did produce some wonderful singing at key moments, though of course lapsing into the ridiculous immediately afterwards.

Christine Rice and Matthew Rose were my favourite voices as Maddalena and Sparafucile. Rice doesn't have a particularly beautiful voice it seems, but she sounded very good - firm, flexible and she's very likeable on stage. I await her O Don Fatale next season... Rose I'm convinced will turn out to be a major force in a few years time, especially when the voice matures into the larger Wagner roles. He's being very sensible and biding his time, and though he's not always very natural on stage, this is a voice with enormous potential I think.

Gardiner in the pit I liked quite a lot, though he didn't make me like the work any more. The Act II quartet to the end is where most of the interest is for me musically, and it was very beautifully played here.

Laurent Pelly's production of La Fille du Régiment has been done a lot at the ROH, the Met and elsewhere and it's a charmer, about as good a production I can imagine of this work. So much beautiful detail lavished on this piece of flim flam! Thing is, it is still a star vehicle, and though the soloists that the ROH have hired are both good, neither are box office draws, and given that they've done it quite recently with Dessay and Florez it's no wonder that it's not selling well. Do they not imagine these things ahead of time?

Anyway, Patrizia Ciofi as Marie is a real surprise - who knew that she could do comedy? She's great in the part. Again it's not a beautiful voice, sounding quite metallic above the stave and disappearing completely below it, but to me it's no less beautiful than Dessay's these days. She's not a virtuoso like Dessay though, so the coloratura isn't all that impressive, though she definitely sings every note.

I don't know if I'm the only one, but the famous 9 high Cs of Ah! Mes Amis... do very little for me. Colin Lee dispatched them with ease, and he's a more charming stage presence perhaps than Florez, but again, he doesn't have the same star quality vocally. I have to say that I'm not the biggest Florez fan (to me this is quite ugly singing), but obviously I recognize his immense talent.

All the other roles were charmingly taken. Ann Murray as La Marquise de Berkenfield is superb, cutting a dashingly elegant figure. Alan Opie is equally good as Sulpice.

Ann Widdecombe however... oh dear. On previous outings we've had Dawn French who was predictably hilarious. As La Duchesse de Crackentorp, Widdecombe is not a car crash, but she's far from great. They could have chosen anyone. Why her? She's not even an actress. Rumour has it that originally we were meant to get Dame Edna Everage this time, but she pulled out. What a shame.

Right. Onto the next review!

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