Rigoletto, ENO

It is rare that I go and see a Verdi opera without remembering the storyline. After studying the great Italian composer and his operas at university you would think the narrative of Rigoletto would stick in my head, but when I went to see the ENO production a few nights ago it was only the melodies which came to mind. Luckily I had my musical grandmother by my side to explain the plot when I got lost.

In brief the opera tells the tale of a cripple (Rigoletto) and his fair daughter (Gilda), who he locks away for protection. When Rigoletto’s boss (the Duke, a gross womaniser) spies the beautiful girl he sets about to find her. Discovering his daughter has been disgraced, Rigoletto is determined to get revenge on his boss once and for all, but unfortunately the murderer he hires kills the wrong person.

Rigoletto

Jonathan Miller’s iconic production returns to the Coliseum for its 13th revival since the original run in September 1982. Over the last four decades this Miller vision of Rigoletto has become one of the most popular ENO show, never failing to thrill audiences. I am often not a fan of modern realisations of classic operas, but this production of Rigoletto manages to portray the story in a contemporary setting without losing the magic of Verdi’s score.

Nicholas Pallensen plays the title role for the first time and sings with gusto and emotional power. His voice is strong and his acting was hugely convincing. Sydney Mancasola makes her ENO debut as his daughter. Mancasola has a shrill voice which comes into its own during the Act III quartet. The Duke, played by Joshua Guerrero, is suitably charming, and his voice is beautifully velvety which I thought worked well for this lyrical Verdi role.

For opera lovers this production of Rigoletto is a must see, continuing at the ENO until 28 February, book tickets here.

Tosca, ENO, October 2016

Tosca is a classic and returns to the great stages more regularly than most operas. After writing my university dissertation on the topic and performing as the ‘Shepherd Boy’ as a child, I have a great fondness for this Puccini masterpiece. And so, when the invitation pinging into my inbox, I immediately knew I had to clear my diary for the occasion of opening night.

Tosca ENO

We took our seats (wonderfully central in the stalls) and my friend asked me to outline the narrative. I struggled to offer up anything comprehensive, despite once studying the score in detail. The truth is, this opera is not about the story so much, it is the all-consuming music which captivates the audience. For this Catherine Malfitano revival at the ENO the cast were lead by revival director Donna Stirrup and Oleg Caetani conducts the confident and boisterous orchestra.

As the overture blasted out from the pit I was instantly entranced, and the worries from the day melted away. I was relieved to see the period set as it always unhinges me a bit to see classics set in the modern day. The creative team, comprising of designer Frank Philip Schlössmann, costume designer Gideon Davey and lighting designer David Martin Jacques did a great job… setting a dramatic and atmospheric scene for the turbulent love story.

Welsh tenor Gwyn Hughes Jones reprises his role as Cavaradossi, and the part feels very safe in his hands. Gwyn’s voice is powerful with a velvety rich tone, it is a pleasure to listen to from start to finish. He is matched by the alluring American singer Keri Alkema as Tosca, whose vocals are bold and beautiful though her spoken voice is more difficult to understand. Craig Colclough is suitably gleeful and chilling as Scarpia, though the volume of his voice is rather lack-lustre in comparison to the leading couple.

This acclaimed rendition of Tosca is powerful to watch, and wonderful to feel part of. As Tosca takes her final backwards leap I felt myself breathe out.. this opera is an emotional rollercoaster, but it is a journey I always love from curtain up to lights out.

Tosca opened on Monday 3 October 2016 at 7.30pm for 13 performances 3, 12, 14, 20, 25 October, 22, 24, 29 November, 1 December at 7.30pm, 8 October at 6.30pm, 22 October, 26 November, 3 December at 3pm.