Rigoletto at Glyndebourne

That time of year already! Battleaxe readers will know that every year we go to over for one of the afternoon pre-tour productions. This year it was Rigoletto, and we went with friends Shaun, Bob and Alison.

Urgh – what a wet afternoon. Last year, it was beautifully sunny…

Our annual picnic act has been getting more and more complex and comprehensive – ever since we saw the fully laid-up table next door to us when we went to Saul in 2015. I have to say to date we have never seen a production as good as Saul, either. We have been to Don Giovanni, The Barber of Seville, La Traviata, but this year’s effort took the biscuit –  see later…

Anyway, for Christmas this year, Philosopher gave me a candelabra with battery powered candles – just for posh picnics, so this year our table held its own with the best…  we had champagne and M & S picnic food.

So, what of the production. Firstly, the singing was absolutely excellent. The star was Rigoletto himself, sung by Nikoloz Lagvilava, who had a fantastic voice and great stage presence – a very mobile face, and the classic opera star’s eyes… reminded me of Tito Gobbi. (The first ever opera I saw live was Cav/Pag with Gobbi in the early 60s… ). Also truly excellent was Vuvu Mpofu as Gilda, closely followed by Matteo Lippi as the Duke.

The singers deserved a better production. Like many operas, the story of Rigoletto is complicated and largely ridiculous, but this production made it look insane, and if you hadn’t had some idea of the story you would not have had a clue about what was going on. It was the directorial debut of young German director Christiane Lutz. On this showing I do not see her going far. For some reason she had transposed the action to a film studio in the 1930s? 40s? 50s? The costumes did not make it clear… Goodness there were some hefty women in the chorus. Was that done on purpose? Rigloletto seemed to be twinned with Charlie Chaplin. Lord knows why. As Shaun said, to make sense of Rigoletto you have to understand the power of the curse. They were not into curses in mid-century film studios…

A lot of people seemed to have trouble with their clothes – meaninglessly taking them off, putting them on, changing them, undoing themselves, doing themselves up again… all in the middle of the action. There was also a lot of business with ladders…

But for me the worst thing by far was what the director did to the singers. Rigoletto has some great arias, and it felt as if the director was afraid of the music, afraid of letting the singers sing.. In Act 1 Gilda sings Caro Nome, one of the most beautiful and technically demanding of all arias. There she was, soaring up to the highest notes – and the stage scenery was moving all around her… it was a bit like Morecombe and Wise. Eventually she has almost disappeared and we can’t even properly applaud her. Then you have some ruddy great car backing and edging round the stage – then, after the interval, Rigoletto and Gilda are singing together and blow me, some grey haired guy in a vest is crawling round the floor… I tell you, it was really annoying and distracting. Were we in Hollywood? But no, the bar looked French… Sometimes in the longeurs of opera I get bored – no chance of that at least. I was constantly hissing to Philosopher ‘What are they doing that for?’

Ah, enough of that. As ever, it was a good day out, and it was nice to see our friends.


  1. Valerie Poore
    October 27, 2019 / 10:11 pm

    Well your photos are wonderful. It looks great even if it didn’t sound it, Stephanie 🙂 I;m glad you enjoyed the day out in the end, though.

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