Verdi’s “Rigoletto” with a production by Monique Wagemakers returns to the Liceu with the stage debut in Spain of the tenor Benjamin Bernheim
The French tenor Benjamin Bernheim, one of the revelation voices of the moment, makes his stage debut at the State level at the Liceu, as well as the premiere in the role of Duke of Mantua, a role that will also be played by Simir Pirgu and Josep Bros.
The role of Rigoletto is played by two baritones, the Englishman Christopher Maltman and the German Markus Brück. In the role of Gilda, two projection sopranos will alternate at the Liceu performances: Olga Peretyatko and Aigul Khismatullina.
Daniele Callegari will conduct the Gran Teatre del Liceu Symphony Orchestra in a successful production that also features the voices of Grigory Shkarupa, Liang Li, Rinat Shaham, Nino Surguladze, Laura Vila, Mattia Denti, Michal Partyka, Moisés Marín, Stefano Palatchi and Sara Bathtubs
Rigoletto stars a bitter and jealous jester who sees how his lord, the Duke of Mantua, seduces and deceives his secret daughter, Gilda, prompting him to plan a revenge that ends up turning against him.
The Dutch stage director Monique Wagemakers undresses the opera in a minimalist and modern scenography, crossed by chiaroscuro that allow to deepen in a heartbreaking and current reflection on the abuses of power.
One of Giuseppe Verdi’s mature titles, Rigoletto, returns to the Gran Teatre del Liceu from November 28 to December 19 with 15 performances in the famous production signed by the Dutch stage director Monique Wagemakers. It is a three-act melodrama with a libretto by Francisco Maria Piave adapted from the play Le roi s’amuse, by Victor Hugo, one of the most acclaimed writers and playwrights in Europe before the revolutions of 1848. Verdi had already adapted to the opera one of his most controversial works, Hernani (1830), a tragedy that caused a great scandal because it broke with the classicist aesthetic.
Rigoletto takes place in Mantua in the 16th century and tells the story of a bitter and hunchbacked jester who lives with his secret daughter, Gilda. The Duke of Mantua, her lord, ignores that she is her daughter and seduces her by posing as a student. He then rapes her before locking her in a dungeon. Rigoletto manages to free her and plots a terrible revenge to make the libertine pay for the affront, but he ends up stabbing the young woman by mistake. The opera premiered on March 11, 1851 at the La Fenice Theater in Venice. In Barcelona it was premiered at the Liceu on December 3, 1853. Since then, 375 performances have been performed (the last on April 6, 2017) and it is the second most performed opera at the Liceu.
On this occasion it will feature the successful co-production of the Gran Teatre del Liceu and the Teatro Real that premiered in 2009 in Madrid, signed by Monique Wagemakers. The Dutch stage director undresses the opera in a minimalist and modern scenography, crossed by an anguished chiaroscuro that allows us to delve into a heartbreaking and current reflection on the abuses of power. As a counterpoint, the blood red of a Renaissance wardrobe accentuates the drama of this work starring an antihero: an outraged and outraged buffoon.
Rigoletto occupies a special place in Verdi’s work, among other reasons, for being a perfect bridge between the language of the composer’s youth and his resounding mature speech. It is one of the Verdi operas with the most direct connections with the bel canto tradition, and its history breathes the breath of Shakespeare. This means that, in order to achieve an excellent interpretation, all the pieces on stage –and in the pit– have reached a great interpretive maturity and are at the peak of their vocal capacity. The musical director who will command the Symphony Orchestra of the Gran Teatre del Liceu is Daniele Callegari, a veteran of European opera – he was director of the Wexford festival and, to this day, titular conductor of the Nice Opera – who has studied Verdi with all the seriousness that his legacy demands. He will have the responsibility of guiding the cast to the heights of the sublime, and he will certainly have prestigious singers at his service who will make performances borderline high.
In the main role of Rigoletto we will have two baritones, the Englishman Christopher Maltman – who at 51 years old, and after several years of success, is at the exact point where the freshness of the voice and the experience of a career come together. marked by difficult challenges in opera and lied – and the German Markus Brück, somewhat younger, but already at the exact point of maturity. In the difficult role of Gilda, the performances of the Liceu will feature two light sopranos of prestige and projection: Olga Peretyatko, who has turned Rigoletto’s daughter into one of its most developed characters, and the young Russian Aigul Khismantullina, who will return to the theater after winning the 56th edition of the Tenor Viñas Singing Contest, precisely singing Rigoletto’s main aria, Caro nome. The role of the Duke of Mantua will fall on three tenors with a long career, such as Josep Bros –two performances, on December 3 and 12–, the Albanian Saimir Pirgu –an interpreter who dominates this role with complete confidence– and the new young sensation. of the French opera, Benjamin Bernheim.
Peretyatko became known when she won the Operalia competition and since then she has sung on the main stages around the world, such as the Royal Opera House in London, the Bastille Opera in Paris and the Metropolitan Opera in New York, among others. . She made her debut at the Gran Teatre del Liceu in the 2009/10 season with Die Entführung aus dem Serail and this will be his second visit. Maltman has earned critical acclaim as Don Giovanni, precisely the role he played in his last performance in Barcelona last season. He has also sung in La bohème (2011/12) and in a joint concert with Anna Netrebko and Yusif Eyvazov (2019/20). Bernheim studied with Gary Magby at the Lausanne Conservatory and has participated in master classes with Jaume Aragall, in addition to studying at the Accademia Verdiana Carlo Bergonzi in Busseto and being part of the Zurich Opernhaus program for young artists. He has played the leading roles in the romantic repertoire in the best theaters in the world and now comes to the Gran Teatre del Liceu after having starred in a recital at the Castell Peralada Festival that same summer.
Daniele Callegari, the new musical director of the Nice Opera, will direct the Symphony Orchestra and Choir of the Gran Teatre del Liceu to interpret this score that represents the transition from bel canto to verismo. Rigoletto, on the other hand, contains some of the most popular lyrical hits of all time: the aria “La donna è mobile” (Act III) sung by the Duke of Mantua, which reflects on the changing character of women just before surrender to his lustful vice. The aria ends with a chest C, which is quite a challenge for tenors. “Gualtier Maldè … Caro nome” (Act I) by Gilda, represents the moment in which the young woman, deceived and believing that the Duke is a student, feels intoxicated with love and expresses her passionate feelings in an aria of coloratura radiant and complex. As for Rigoletto, he unleashes his ire in “Sì, vendetta, tremendous vendetta”, a duet with Gilda full of contrasts in which the jester screams revenge after the duke has kidnapped and locked his daughter in a dungeon.
About the production
The question of power, and especially the abuse of power, is one of the keys to the vision conveyed by this Rigoletto by Monique Wagemakers. The relationship between characters – Rigoletto, Gilda and the Duke of Mantua – is presented as a triangle of sharp edges: the duke, a libertine satyr, does not love Gilda, and in reality Rigoletto does not love his daughter, whom he keeps under an oppression disguised as protection. Only she is moved by an impulse of idealism and love, but she ends up being the innocent victim of her father’s blind wrath. Wagemakers wants to bring the reality of the violence inherent in this opera to the present day, pointing out that it is about issues that still generate debate today: violence within the family, violence against women, sometimes camouflaged as protection, consent at the time of have sex, etc.
Para la directora holandesa, lo que destaca de Rigoletto no es tanto la trama novelística y vibrante de momentos melodramáticos, sino las pasiones atávicas que arrastran a los personajes, que se ven dominados por instintos bajos e impulsos irracionales que los conducen al desastre. A nivel escenográfico, esto se traduce en una especie de ring de boxeo —diseñado por el escenógrafo Michael Levine— que se mueve en el espacio y adopta diferentes colores según los sentimientos que contiene: ira, tristeza, desprecio, furor sexual. Los cantantes se sienten retratados y deben buscar en su interior para maximizar sus emociones.
Alejándose de los decorados grandilocuentes y cortesanos, habituales en esta ópera que transcurre en la Italia del siglo XVI, la directora de escena juega con un elemento clave como la iluminación, diseñada por Rainier Tweebeeke, y también con el llamativo vestuario monocromático de Sandy Powell. El juego minimalista que ofrece este cuadrilátero que se ilumina formando claroscuros sombríos y los trajes rojo sangre inspirados en la Venecia renacentista proporciona una atmósfera que magnifica la teatralidad de la obra. Gracias a una articulación en dos niveles, el cuadrilátero permite jugar con el interior y el exterior, con lo oculto y lo visible, logrando una síntesis perfecta entre canto y teatro.
The floor of the ring is tactile so that the characters not only mark a color when they walk, but also leave a slight trail behind them. This luminous halo serves to highlight the tensions that exist between the characters and allows us to delve into their psychology. In this sense, although Rigoletto appears as an abusive and oppressive father, Gilda appears as a naive young woman, unable to understand the dangers that threaten her outside the shell where her father keeps her, convinced that man is good by nature, in the vein of Rousseau’s “good savage”. The Duke of Mantua, the most perverse character – a cynical man who takes advantage of his situation of power – gets his way without a scratch and without expressing the slightest remorse. He represents the power that prevails and continues to advance undeterred.
Rigoletto is the first “Joker” – to draw a parallel with the recent Todd Phillips film – stepped on by society, dejected and maddened. In fact, Verdi had set out to adapt Shakespeare’s King Lear, but the project did not go ahead favoring, on the other hand, the composition of Rigoletto. He was attracted precisely by the figure of the hunchbacked jester – who, on the other hand, is not in Hugo’s work – a man who has no power over his master, who in turn humiliates him by igniting his anger and impotence. . Wagemakers puts the finger on the wound to point out the need to be always alert to combat the abuses of power since, otherwise, the machinery continues to advance and the weak, almost always, end up crushed.
Christmas at the Liceu
Starting with Rigoletto’s performances, the Liceu dresses up for Christmas with the lighting of the Teatre’s façade in blue and the placement of a tree in the historic hall. In the same way, as of December 3, the ‘Caixa Regalo Ópera’ will also be available, a special Christmas gift that includes two tickets to choose from among all the operas of the Liceu season 21/22 (starting with Pikovaia Dama) , as well as those of dance Giselle and De Scheherezade a yo, Carmen. From The Magic Flute, the performances on June 27 and July 1 will be included in the box. The points of sale will be online and lockers at a price of € 175 (with 7 euros of shipping gestures in web purchases). The boxes purchased can be exchanged from January 7 until the date of the last show included.