26 April 2017
A memorable Rigoletto
by Moore Parker
Vienna State Opera
8 April 2014
In many respects this was a stellar revival of the Sequi/Dessyllas production which, in its 105th performance to date, is showing its age somewhat, yet with the appropriate cast can still ignite Verdi's masterpiece.
In the title role was the legendary Leo Nucci, aged 72, with 35 seasons at the Vienna State Opera and 501 Rigolettos (including this performance) to his credit. Minor moments of unclean attacks and an occasionally jaded timbre pale within the context of this grand interpretation. The multi-faceted jester (with almost a touch of Jerry Lewis-like antics in his opening scene) comfortably spans Rigoletto's gamut of emotions, from the intimate tenderness in his scenes with Gilda, through the rage and desperation of "Cortigiani, vil razza dannata", to climax in a tastefully convincing and heart rending finale.
The find of the evening is the Italian tenor, Piero Pretti. His vocal interpretation is full of finesse (the only technical failing being an occasional tendency to lag midrange just a sliver under Viennese pitch) with a fine sense of phrasing and a seamless, malleable range which extends to an effortless, ringing top. His voice and good looks will undoubtedly see this fine singer moving beyond impressive to international stardom.
Valentina Nafornita possesses the essential virtues for an ideal Gilda. Her sylph-like figure and youthful demureness, accompanied by her bright and pure soprano convince beyond doubt. In addition, she paces the role well, cleverly juxtaposing her registers and corresponding colour variations to good effect and generally providing adequate tone for the role's big moments. She avoids the interpolated high Eb in the Gilda/Rigoletto Act 2 finale "Si, vendetta, tremenda vendetta (choosing a Bb instead) and indeed, occasionally gives the overall impression that the voice tapers off in its upper range rather than extending into the upper stratosphere that many similar voices enjoy. However, a lovely performance.
Nadia Krasteva is (in all respects) a voluptuous Maddalena, her sensuality almost making this Duke appear chaste in comparison. A good match too for Dan Paul Dumitrescu's rotund and black-voiced Sparafucile, who nicely filled the house with tone and personality to match the other leading protagonists.
Among the supporting roles, Alexandru Moisiuc's intimidating Monterone stood out in presence and provided sufficient vocal bite to drive the character's curse well across the footlights to the back of the house.
Jesús López-Cobos conduced a detailed and lively performance - on a couple of occasions he was briefly at odds with his soloists regarding tempi, but all-in-all demonstrated a firm rapport with the forces on and below the stage.
Photo © Wiener Staatsoper / Michael Pöhn