Opera Scotland

Rigoletto 2018Scottish Opera

Read more about the opera Rigoletto

Matthew Richardson's 2011 staging relied on an extremely simple concept. Sets are minimalist - simple walls crossing the stage, with doors allowing us a hint of what was happening outside. The lighting was excellently moody - though the use of nightclub style glitter balls was intermittently dazzling. Period was mid-20th century - anytime from the forties to the seventies. The performance style introduced unusual elements of music hall, not just for Rigoletto himself, but also for the gentlemen of the chorus - formal evening wear, bowler hats, white gloves - a hint of Busby Berkeley in the choreography. The Duke was characterised partly as a young military figure - with 'third man' -style raincoat in the last act, but also unusually sympathetic. While it was musically fine there was a sense that the ideas really didn't quite gel.

Frequently a production can lose focus on revival. One of the most pleasing features of this performance was the fact that, under the guidance of the original director, everything on stage seemed tighter and more effective this time. The crisply staged chorus activity seemed even better than before - the sinister white Venetian masks quite unsettling, the choreographed routines altogether more effective than before. The three chorus leaders, Borsa, Marullo and Ceprano were clearly individualised this time, full of character and very well projected. The female soloists were equally good - Countess, Page, and, especially Giovanna. The use of mannequins in the opening dance scene seemed less intrusive and more tactful this time round - less obviously an economy measure driven by the use of a freelance chorus. (Salaried chorus ladies in most Rigoletto productions, not being required to sing, justify their presence by running around and screaming a lot, which can get very wearing).

The musical side of the performance was again very strong. Conductor Rumon Gamba is not known much in Scotland, his reputation lying more with recordings, especially of classic film music. But he has spent several years conducting opera abroad, especially in Sweden, where the director has also worked. His style was lively and dramatic and some interesting detail in the scoring emerged more than usual, including the lyrical cello solo as Sparafucile introduces himself. Orchestra and chorus were on excellent form throughout.

The singers of the leading parts were largely unfamiliar. Rigoletto himself was played by a Greek baritone, Aris Argiris. He has a powerful, well-focused baritone. He seems to have started the run with a heavy cold, which detracted from opening night, and he missed the second performance altogether. At the third night, while clearly not yet 100 percentt - he did lose pitch when the voice was under pressure - he fitted into the concept with ease, and dominated the performance.

The Duke, Adam Smith, was a tall, elegant figure, with an excellent voice for this difficult role - but with occasional dryness of tone. Lina Johnson was an ideal, beautifully projected Gilda and David Shipley a smoothly elegant Sparafucile. All were making their welcome first appearances here, backed by Sioned Gen Davies as an excellent Maddalena, and it was interesting to see how easily the staging adjusted round them.


Scottish Opera's 2018/19 season started off with the company's first full-scale staging of one of the most popular works of the verismo school in Leoncavallo's Pagliacci. This was seen in Paisley in July - an impressively large-scale production with many local performers, all in a huge temporarily-erected marquee. The new stagings include a world premiere, Anthropocene, an eagerly awaited further collaboration between Stuart MacRae and Louise Welsh. There is also a new Kátya Kabanová. Returning to the composition period of Pagliacci, the continuing Sunday afternoon concert series includes Scottish premieres for Puccini's second opera, Edgar, and Mascagni's fifth, Silvano. There are also major revivals, and long tours, for Matthew Richardson's staging of Rigoletto from 2011 and Sir Thomas Allen's of The Magic Flute (2012).

Performance DatesRigoletto 2018

Map List

Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Glasgow

18 Oct, 19.15 21 Oct, 15.00 24 Oct, 19.15 27 Oct, 19.15

His Majesty's Theatre, Aberdeen | Aberdeen

1 Nov, 19.15 3 Nov, 19.15

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

9 Nov, 19.15 11 Nov, 15.00 15 Nov, 19.15 17 Nov, 19.15

Eden Court Theatre | Inverness

20 Nov, 19.15 22 Nov, 19.15 24 Nov, 19.15

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