|(c) Metropolitan Opera|
Fortunately, there was still a Verdi opera to enjoy! Paolo Arrivabeni conducted again, but the orchestral performance proved much tighter and darker and more exciting than in the September performance I attended. The pacing was good too, although I thought the orchestra sometimes was kept a tad louder than desirable. I didn't get goosebumps, but the score was given fine dramatic impulsion. The chorus being their musically excellent selves, the less static blocking helped the palace scenes considerably. Malcolm MacKenzie stood out as Marullo. His baritone was pleasant, supple, and expressive, and he acted! Visibly! Having Marullo conflicted made Rigoletto's plea to him both more logical and more poignant. Kirstin Chávez' Maddalena didn't really impress me; I thought that her voice lacked smoothness, and her performance sensuality. As Sparafucile, Vitaly Efanov substituted for an indisposed Stefan Kocán. He was physically and vocally imposing: resonant rather than gravelly, with a complex, burnished tone which kept the role safe from caricature. The famous low F was long, strong, and steady.
Nino Machaidze has a girlish spontaneity on stage which helped create a sympathetic Gilda. I thought she used her warm, agile, sweet-toned soprano well, but I remained dry-eyed. I imagine that continued experience--she has a busy schedule--may bring added dramatic complexity to her interpretation. She clearly has great joy in what she does, which is always nice to see. Giovanni Meoni took some time to warm up fully, sounding a bit rough in the first scene. Once settled in, he used his rich, full sound well for both the character's tender lyricism and furious rage. He had really lovely chemistry with Machaidze, and their scenes together were standouts. What I missed was a sense of desperate urgency. Joseph Calleja seemed to me the most successful communicator of drama and emotion (even feigned emotion!) through the voice. This was my first time hearing him live and I was hugely impressed: he has a big, bright sound, and also great dynamic control. It is to his very great credit, I think, that he delivered the cripplingly famous arias which bookend the role with a fine dramatic arc to them. "Parmi veder le lagrime" was likewise delivered with nuanced phrasing. Calleja had charismatic energy on stage as well, full of buoyant self-confidence. Poor Gilda! Gualtier Maldè was very persuasive indeed. All in all, an interesting Rigoletto; if I have time between Walküres, I may well try to make it to the two-nights-only special of Luisi conducting Lucic, Damrau, and Filianoti.