dpm is a Birmingham-based freelancer with experience of arts and lifestyle features.
Verdi's opera moves to the White House
Welsh National Opera's revival of its 2002 production of Verdi's Rigoletto couldn't be more timely. Set in 1960's Washington DC, it's a tale of seduction, deceit and revenge and, by placing the action right into the heart of the White House, we see corruption at the highest level. In Verdi's original opera it is the Duke who is seducing the women and removing anyone who defies him but in this production, it's very clearly the President. And when he sets his sights on Gilda, the daughter of his jester Rigoletto, nothing will stand in his way. He will charm, lie and abuse to gain what he wants.
Rigoletto has no heroes – all of the male characters are abhorrent but Gilda is the pure innocent at the heart of the opera who believes in pure love and will sacrifice herself for it – even when the object of her devotion is patently unworthy of her.
Mark S Doss plays the hunchbacked and limping Rigoletto who is scorned by the very court circles he frequents. Doss's Rigoletto is hard to like, he panders for his boss and has no sympathy for those who have been wronged until it becomes his turn. His one redeeming quality is his love for Gilda but even that is unnatural as he keeps her locked up in an attempt to keep her safe. When she is kidnapped and seduced by the Duke his thoughts turn to bloody revenge – but the fates are against him and it is his own daughter who is murdered while the Duke escapes. Imposing and brutal, Rigoletto's final cry of anguish is both hideous and haunting.
Haegee Lee is the sweet and innocent Gilda who falls for her ravisher and believes he truly loves her. Even when faced with the truth she will die to protect him. David Junghoon Kim plays the suave and charming Duke who wins the women around him. Totally oblivious and/or not caring about the harm he causes, he blithely goes along his way switching from one woman to the next without a care in the world. The famous aria La donna e mobile (Woman is fickle) is all the more ironic because he's the one jumping from one bed to another while passing judgement on women.
Designed by Robert Innes Hopkins, the sets brilliantly brings to life the Oval Office as well as the back streets of the city where court jesters and killers live. Directed by James Macdonald, there is no let-up in the drama as the tragedy unfolds before us. Verdi's music is of course supreme and WNO's orchestra, conducted by Alexander Joel perform it with exuberance.
Rigoletto is also performed at Birmingham Hippodrome on Saturday 9 November alongside Janacek's The Cunning Little Vixen on Thurs 7 November and Carmen on Friday 8. For tickets see www.birminghamhippodrome.com or call 0844 338 5000.