On paper this looked a slightly unpromising prospect but it turned out to be a cracking evening at the opera. Much of this was due to Giandrea Noseda and the LSO, fresh from giving ten performances of the work at Aix.
Rigoletto is often sold only on the star power of the cast and far too often conducted by second rate routiniers. However just the short prelude, hair raising in intensity, was enough to demonstrate that this was not going to be a run of the mill performance. From start to finish Noseda and the orchestra illuminated every aspect of this marvellous score. The LSO clearly love working with him and they performed at white hot intensity throughout, culminating in the most exciting storm scene of my experience.
Rigoletto is not a big chorus opera but the LSO chorus sang with their accustomed precision and power. Possibly they could have afforded a touch more louche debauchery in the court scenes but I imagine the Barbican Hall does not easily lend itself to that sort of goings on!
Dimitri Platanias has already sung Rigoletto at the ROH and, earlier this summer was a very successful Paolo in Simon Boccanegra. He is not a typical Verdi baritone but, unlike many who sing the roles these days, he does have a really sizeable, cutting voice. His big moments were all sung strongly and he illuminates the text intelligently. His portrayal is definitely Rigoletto as pit-bull rather than crafty manipulator and he is better vocally in the barnstorming moments than the tender duets with his daughter. He tired slightly during Verdi's insanely demanding Act 2 but recovered for a strong finish in Act 3. In an age which is almost devoid of Verdi baritones Platanias is an artist to be cherished.
Desirée Rancatore was one of the most successful Gildas of my experience. In the opening scene with her father she deliberately covered and whitened her tone to convey the character's naivety and inexperience. But as her love for the Duke blossomed so she allowed the voice to open out. Her "Caro nome", complete with interpolated decorations, brought the house down and her death scene, even in the antiseptic atmosphere of the hall, was genuinely moving with Rancatore fining her voice almost to a whisper as the character's life ebbed away. A great performance.
Saimur Pirgu's Duke was not quite on this level. He has a good voice and a nice relaxed stage presence even if rather more college heartthrob than despotic seducer. But he has a disconcerting habit of hammering any note above the stave in a manner that breaks Verdi's vocal line. Despite this, and a couple of less than sovereign top Bs, there was much to enjoy in his performance.
Add to this some really excellent supporting singers including Wojtek Smilek's genuinely terrifying Monterone, Gábor Bretz's slimily sepulchral Sparafucile and Susana Gaspar excellent as both Countess Ceprano and the Page and this was a really superb evening. But the star was undoubtedly Noseda's riveting conducting. There was no evidence of any microphones onstage so I assume this performance was left unrecorded. If that is the case it is a genuine pity.