Putting a fresh twist on Rigoletto

A new production of Verdi’s tragic masterpiece, Rigoletto, is about to tour Ireland.

With a new translation by Marina Carr and a cutting-edge director, Selina Cartmell, the Opera Theatre Company promises a provocative take on a classic that has some of the finest duets and catchiest tunes in the opera song book.

As one of the top-ten most-performed operas, Rigoletto has had many unconventional settings. The transformations of the Duke of Mantua’s courtiers have included Rat Pack lounge lizards at The Met, leather clad bikers in a 1980s Scottish Opera production and, bizarrely, hairy primates in a Bavarian State Opera production inspired by Planet of the Apes.

Cartmell is again focusing on ‘the outsider’ in her work. The maligned, disfigured anti-hero , Rigoletto, is the quintessential outsider — in the duke’s court, but not of it.

Playing Gilda, Rigoletto’s daughter, is Emma Nash, from Douglas in Cork. Nash was bitten by the stage bug as a child appearing in panto with CADA Performing Arts in Cork.

She has been busy since graduating recently with an MA from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, appearing in roles with three Irish opera companies.

Nash also appeared in Der Vampyr and in the inaugural Irish Youth opera production of The Rape of Lucretia.

Gilda is a plum bel-canto role that requires a high and light flexible soprano voice to portray the innocent and obedient daughter. It is Nash’s first full Verdi role.

Nash approached it by learning the Italian version. “I’ve been working with great coaches at the Welsh National Opera, mainly Anthony Negus, who has conducted the opera many times before. My teacher, soprano Suzanne Murphy, performed the role at WNO in the 1970s and I feel very privileged to have her as a mentor and be able to take her advice and techniques for singing this role.

“She even has her original score, with all her own notes, which I have, of course, had to steal!”

Even in this electronic age of screens, there is something reassuring in pencilled notes and well-thumbed, printed scores being passed from master to student in the old-fashioned way. Is it easier to sing in English?

Not necessarily so. “Singing in English can be more challenging than one might think, because there is no room for text that is unclear,” says Nash.

The licentious Duke of Mantua is played by Luciano Botelho, in his Irish debut.

The young Brazilian tenor impressed audiences in his debut at Opera de Rennes last year, and has garnered much praise at the Welsh National Opera and Royal Opera House for his elegant, lyric tenor voice .

The title role is played by seasoned Verdi baritone, Bruno Caproni. Of Italian stock, Caproni was brought up in Bangor, Co Down and recently performed the role at the Komische Oper, Berlin.

Be warned that this production has strong sexual content, and comes with an over-18s recommendation.

Rigoletto opens at the National Opera House, Wexford on Friday, May 15; and also tours to Dundalk, Navan, Dublin, Letterkenny, Kilkenny and Limerick. www.opera.ie

READ MORE: Druid Theatre Company celebrates forty years of magic with Shakespear tour

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