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Rigoletto - Teatro Real Madrid


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Teatro Real, Madrid (ESP), Premiere October 1, 2001

Report - Commentary - Cast

Impressions and Contents  Part 1     Part 2      Part 3


Carlos Alvarez als Rigoletto - Photo: Teatro Real
Carlos Alvarez als Rigoletto - Photo: Teatro Real

The night of Carlos Alvarez

For the opening of the 2001/2002-season at the Teatro Real Carlos Alvarez gave his enthusiastically celebrated debut as Rigoletto, Verdi's tragic court jester and father figure. The in Malaga born, young Spanish baritone embodied the difficult role as singer and actor in an incredible intensive way with a sensible, but nevertheless force- and powerful, beautiful voice.

The Spanish soprano Isabel Rey - though it was not seen by all members of the first night audience like this - shined at his side as for the Duke self-sacrificing Gilda. Giuseppe Sabbatini as the womanizing Duke of Mantua showed a solid tenor performance, though there could have been a bit more brilliance in his voice especially in the beginning of the premiere performance. Askar Abdrazakov gave his Sparafucile a diabolic blackness and Enkelejda Shkosa embodied an about the life of the Duke worried Maddalena with a well-conducted, warm mezzo.

Carlos Alvarez als Rigoletto - Photo: Teatro Real
Carlos Alvarez als Rigoletto - Photo: Teatro Real

It had diverse opinions about the performances of the conductor Daniel Lipton, whose conducting could have been more distinguished and clearer worked out , and of the stage director Graham Wick. The latter has created together with his stage and costume designer Paul Brown especially in the first scene at the Court of Mantua a last days, brutal atmosphere. Lovingly worked out was instead the scene in Gilda's garden, as well as the splendid costumes. But, even if the opinions about the staging could be controversial, once again Graham Wick justified his reputation as the music and text respecting stage director.

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La Plaza d'Oriente during the performance (in the back the Teatro Real)

The season's opening, which was witnessed by 1,800 spectators in and about 2,000 outside the Teatro Real watching a big video screen, was given special shine by the presence of King Juan Carlos I. and Queen Sofia. (bp) top


A more stirring, more touching interpretation of the figure of Rigoletto, than Carlos Alvarez is embodying in the production of Graham Wick, it might not have had in the 150 years of performing this Verdi opera. Piteous already in the appearance, totally convincingly in his body language and his facial play - it is not anymore Carlos Alvarez standing on the stage, but an old, broken man, who quarrels with his fate.

Already eight years ago the today 36-year-old Spanish baritone had learned the music part of the role of Rigoletto for La Scala at Milano. But then he had canceled the role, because he did not feel matured enough for this part. Ricardo Muti accepted his decision and meanwhile the two have already made some new productions like Don Giovanni and Le nozze di Figaro at Vienna. In this eight years the voice has matured and Carlos Alvarez has become father of two children and he knows, "Today I can much better develop the feelings of a father and transfer them to the audience. It is like with a good wine. It had to settle. I have not touched the role for eight years till the moment I knew I was going to sing it at Madrid. Now it has just taken a month of work to have the part present again." That he interprets the role also so perfectly as an actor, he gives a lot of credits to the stage director Graham Wick, "I tried to come to the first rehearsal like a virgin. I knew at that time already the make-up, which plays an important part for the structure of the role. I knew, of course, the music and the libretto, but I did not want to force my opinion about the role and my direction on the production and this was good. Graham Wick and I we read together very carefully the libretto and at the same time we worked out each feeling, which is conveyed by the music Then it was pretty easy to develop our interpretation."

Carlos Alvarez feels very comfortable in the production of Graham Wick, with whom he had already worked together for the '98 new production of Verdi's Ernani at the Vienna State Opera, in which he gave the part of Don Carlos. The Rigoletto new production of the Teatro Real at Madrid took place in cooperation with other opera houses like the Maggio Musicale, the Gran Teatro de Liceo and the Teatro Massimo de Palermo (Dec. 2001) and therefore Carlos Alvarez will be seen in the title role also at Firenze (Nov. 2003) and at Barcelona (Nov. 2004).

That Graham Wick's production would not absolutely meet the taste of the Madrid audience, did not surprise, since he had given it in large parts an extremely gloomy and brutal atmosphere. The observation that one might believe to be in a Mad-Max-movie especially in the first scene at the festivities in the duke's palace, the British stage director enjoedy. The outfit of the courtiers and their behavior remembered of a rocker gang, while the ladies were clothed in splendid costumes. The morbid atmosphere, the reprehensible, even fatal activities - without doubt very timeless - grips the spectator from the first moment, as he can very well follow the story as Wick has staged it without knowing the text of the libretto. In contrast to the customs and way of life at the court stands Gilda's home with a lovely portrayed garden and parts of the house, where the religious props can be seen confirming Gilda's adjustment to a decent, on the church concentrated life.

Graham Wick's Gilda is not shown behind iron bars like in a cage. The walls of the revolving stage representing the high walls around the garden and house are open towards the audience - a total shielding from the environment will not exist and does not exist - even the going to church on Sundays and holidays turns out to be a deceptive trap. How much love Gilda owns for her crippled father shows when she washes him tenderly his bloody hump on his back. A scene, small but brilliant, which might not exist in any other production in this way.

Another moment, in which Wick becomes more distinct than most of his colleagues is the end of the second act and the beginning of the third act. What happens exactly between the last scene in the palace, when Rigoletto swears revenge to the duke and tries to take his kidnapped and seduced daughter home, while she still implores her father for pity for her lover and keeps to her love for the duke, and the beginning of the third act, when Rigoletto brings Gilda to the tavern of Sparafucile to convince her about the disloyalty of the duke, the libretto does not exactly tell. One knows that some time has passed, that Gilda still loves the duke and that she is convinced that he loves also her. Graham Wick makes a clear statement: Gilda tears off her father at the end of the second act and stays sitting on the duke's bed, while her father leaves the palace. Even more distinct becomes the first scene of the third act: Gilda wears not anymore her modest dress of the first act, but is spruced up in a dress of the ladies-in-waiting when she comes to the tavern. There is no doubt, she has spent the time inbetween at the court as the lover of the duke, who looks now for new love adventures. A very obvious interpretation.

What is many times disturbing throughout the performance is the noise the revolving stage makes when turning. Unfortunately it happens also during some solo-arias with few orchestra accompaniment. But this cannot be made as reproach to the stage director. Normally one is supposed to use the existing stage technique, what makes a performance also more interesting.

The choir of the Teatro Real was very well rehearsed by Martin Merry. The orchestra offered under the baton of Daniel Lipton a great performance. It almost breathed with the singers, what sometimes goes on the expenses of the precision, but makes the performance to a completely rounded piece of work.

Birgit Popp

P.S.: Since the beginning of his career, which started in the Teatro de la Zarzuela at Madrid, Carlos Alvarez stands up for the Zarzuela, the Spanish song play, which is settled somewhere between operetta and opera. How varied the many types of the Zarzuela are, Carlos Alvarez shows on his newest CD 'Zarzuela Gala', which had been released by RBA in October 2001. More information can be taken from www.rba.es (in Spanish and English)

Further performances: October 4, 7, 10, 13, 16, 19, 22, 24 and 28, 2001
Further information: www.teatro-real.com

Impressions and Contents  Part 1     Part 2      Part 3

The artists

Rigoletto    Carlos Alvarez
Gilda    Isabel Rey
Herzog von Mantua    Giuseppe Sabbatini
Sparafucile    Askar Abdrazakov
Maddalena    Enkelejda Shkosa
Musikalische Leiter 
  Daniel Lipton
Stage director 
  Graham Wick
Bühnen- & Köstümbildner 
Stage & costume designer 
  Paul Brown
  Matthew Richardson

Impressions and Contents  Part 1     Part 2      Part 3



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