Rigoletto: Tragedy and melody in triumph: an opera review by Victor Grynberg

July 8, 2018 by Victor Grynberg
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This 17th of the 37 operas that Verdi wrote, arguably has the best score of all his masterpieces.

Victor Grynberg

It’s  very melodic the whole way through and  several of his greatest hits are contained here, including “Caro Nome” and ” Questa o Quella”. Interestingly Verdi knew he was on a winner with the much beloved “La Donna e Mobile” (women are fickle), so much so that he only gave it to the principal tenor (Duke of Mantua)  a few days before it’s premiere in 1851, with firm instructions that he not even whistle it before Opening night, lest someone steal it.

Yet for all the glorious music of this Opera, the production works best  when the audience can relate to Rigoletto himself and be convinced by his character.

Rigoletto is the hunchbacked buffoon/ jester in the court of the Duke of Mantua.

A widower with no friends, derided by the hangers-on of the court, his only joy in life is his beautiful daughter Gilda, over whom he tries to have a very protective cover.

Making a very welcome return to Opera Australia is Slovakian baritone Dalibor Jenis. From the opening scene in his dressing room the audience is swept up  into Rigoletto’s world by Jenis’ very convincing portrayal of the hunchback, and his immaculate baritone.


Dalibor Jenis as Rigoletto, Gennadi Dubinsky as Monterone, and the Opera Australia Chorus in Opera Australia’s 2018 production of Rigoletto at Sydney Opera House.
Photo: Prudence Upton

It’s remarkable that this production conceived by Elijah Moshinsky for OA debuted in 1991. A generation ago. Clearly inspired by the Fellini tour de force “La Dolce Vita” ….. wasteful lives, infidelity , alcohol and paparazzi of 1960’s Rome, this opera even has it’s own Virna Lisi in the opening court party scene where a strong cast and chorus , featuring Gianluca Terranova reprising his 2014 role for OA as the duplicitous Duke of Mantua, and  performing his role  to perfection. Albeit not looking quite as young as he is meant to be.  Standouts in this scene included Luke Gabbedy as Marullo and Gennadi Dubinsky as Count Monterone, seeking revenge on the Duke for seducing his daughter.

Russian soprano , Irina Lungu (making her OA debut) is  Gilda, the ill-fated daughter of Rigoletto, singing with a very sweet tone and acting convincingly as an innocent under the spell of the smooth talking Duke.

As much as I like to see locals filling major roles for OA, it’s important for quality and freshness to import some stars. And this opera is a full vindication of this policy as the imports are all of the highest quality.

In Act 2 the chorus recounts the kidnapping of Gilda in a rhythmic dance step routine singing a great Verdi number “Scorrendo Uniti”, ( We went together at midnight) . This number continues to be a great hit with the

Dalibor Jenis as Rigoletto and Irina Lungu as Gilda in Opera Australia’s 2018 production of Rigoletto at Sydney Opera House.
Photo: Prudence Upton

audiences, thanks to Verdi’s music and the very well-drilled chorus.

In Act 3 we have the battered Fiat 500 of Rigoletto make it’s welcome return, another of Moshinsky’s innovative touches.

The scene focuses on Sparafucile ( an assassin well portrayed and sung  by Ukrainian  Taras Berezhansky, also making his OA debut, and his sexy  sister Maddalena ( the always pleasing Sian Pendry) whose seduction of the Duke of Mantua is overheard by the poor Gilda and her father. This leads to the tragic conclusion of the piece and Rigoletto’s final, very sad aria.

I think this is the 6th or 7th time I have seen this Moshinsky production  over the last 27 years and I never tire of it. Judging by the enthusiastic applause on Opening night, the house agreed unanimously.

5 stars



Opera in three acts by Giuseppe Verdi.

Joan Sutherland Theatre

Sydney Opera House

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