Coke-snorting thugs, gyrating strip-club dancers, pimps and prostitutes are the lowlife denizens of the ‘Duke’s court’, in Opera Theatre Company’s reimagining of Rigoletto.
Director Selina Cartmell sets the murderous plot in a grotesque nocturnal fantasy of 1980s gangland Dublin. The action centres on a boxing ring. The look and atmosphere are reminiscent of Gavin Quinn’s recent setting for a gritty Carmen, also for OTC.
The production came with an ‘adult’ tag, but the sexual activity is ultimately distracting. The adaptation teems with directorial details, but tries too hard to radicalise a production that may appeal to seasoned cognoscenti who have a taste for the avant garde, but which risks repelling a mainstream audience.
The translation was by Marina Carr, but in the O’Reilly Theatre I struggled to catch all of a text peppered with contemporary slang.
Musically, however, this was a high-quality show. Bruno Caproni was superb in the arduous role of the hunchbacked outsider consumed by rage, jealousy and grief. Cork soprano Emma Nash was child-like innocence personified, bell-like bright and assured in her first Verdi role. Brazilian tenor Luciano Botelho was a lean and nimble-voiced Duke, although the Hiberno-English didn’t always sit comfortably in his Latinate diction. In the smaller roles, Brendan Collins, a late replacement for Michael Druiett, brought a bracing menace to the role of brooding Monterone, who also is murdered by the mob.
The subtleties of the score were exposed with great colour and clarity by a 12-piece orchestra, and the animated vigour and skill of the string section, featuring the ConTempo Quartet, was incredible.
Other dates on the Rigoletto tour include the Watergate Theatre, Kilkenny, May 28; and Lime Tree, Limerick, May 30
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