Opera Theatre Company at O’Reilly Theatre (Belvedere College, Dublin) on 21 May 2015

Verdi’s Rigoletto depicts a dangerously corrupt world, which in Opera Theatre Company’s new production comes to life in the harsh confines of a boxing club (complete with showgirls) at the wrong end of town.

A television screen centre-stage plays old ads for Duracell bunnies and Old Spice, during which the small orchestra begins the prelude and before long we see the Duke (Luciano Botelho) practicing his moves in the ring. His gang soon gathers for a party and the chaos of the opening scene effectively creates a violent atmosphere of sex- and drug-filled mayhem. Director Selina Cartmell joins a long list of theatre directors to have turned their hands to opera with, in this case, strong results. The dangerous excess of the opening is soon pared down, and forms an effective frame for the fast-paced story, with some witty visual symbolism. Botelho sings with nimble lightness, easily contrasting with the mellifluous colour of Rigoletto Bruno Caproni’s rich baritone. Brendan Collins, covering for an indisposed singer, doubles the roles of Monterone and Marullo, and delivers Monterone’s curse with excellent clarity, bringing necessary depth to this brief role. The main focus of the story is Rigoletto’s troubled – and troubling – relationship with daughter Gilda, sung here by Emma Nash. Her soprano voice seems at times almost too hard-edged for this role, but she projects the big moments, notably the famous aria ‘Caro nome’, to expressive effect.

The energy flags slightly in the second half of Act I, and the text of Marina Carr’s fresh, taut, translation is difficult to hear at times (Caproni has the clearest words), while early on there are some rocky moments in the ensemble, but these problems are easily outweighed by what works. The energy and atmosphere of this opera – expressed in the music – rises beyond its unbelievable story to portray curtailed lives made cheap by fear, and the desire for something better, and this comes across strongly. The 12-piece ensemble (playing a reduced score), conducted by Fergus Sheil, work hard and play beautifully, with many of them giving solo lines at some point. This is ensemble opera at its best, but in the end the strongest applause is for Bruno Caproni’s powerhouse performance – a great achievement.


Giuseppe Verdi: Rigoletto

Libretto: English translation (after the original Italian of Francesco Maria Piave) by Marina Carr

Director: Selina Cartmell; Designer: Alex Lowde; Conductor: Fergus Sheil

Cast: Bruno Caproni (Rigoletto); Luciano Botelho (Duke); Emma Nash (Gilda); John Molloy (Sparafucile); Kate Allen (Maddalena/Countess Ceprano); Brendan Collins (Marullo/Monterone); Doreen Curran (Giovanna); David Howes (Ceprano); Owen Gilhooly (Borsa)