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<<  -- 4 --  Roderic Dunnett    REVISITING WITH PLEASURE

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There were raunchy bare chests on display for the launch of Longborough's first staging of Rigoletto, directed with plenty of aplomb and imagination by Richard Studer. This was a finessed show in many respects. Craig Smith's Rigoletto cut an ominous figure, armed with vast jester's Jingling Johnny and hovering like some grim Tiresias.

Craig Smith as a grimly foreboding vengeful Rigoletto. Photo © 2006 Stephen Wright
Craig Smith as a grimly foreboding vengeful Rigoletto. Photo © 2006 Stephen Wright

What caught the spirit straight away was the first-rate quality of ensemble of the rumbustious young courtiers' chorus, forming striking stage blocks like the mock-secretive rearstage huddle round Eamonn Dougan's well-characterised Marullo and Andy Morton's capable Borsa.

The orchestra under Jonathan Lyness acquitted itself well from the outset, full of fine detail such as the interweaving divisi cellos for Sparafucile's first sly rencontre with Rigoletto; indeed each time the sinister 'curse' music returned -- which was quite often -- a shiver went down one's spine. The sheer grim unforgivingness of Rigoletto's nurtured hatred provided the perfect foil to the arrival of the production's wonderful Gilda, the young New Zealander Lurelle Alefounder, a glorious piece of casting who brought a touching glow of innocence with her every time she appeared.

Jim Heath's lusting Duke of Mantua gets the feel of Maddalena (Rappacioli). Photo © 2006 Stephen Wright
Jim Heath's lusting Duke of Mantua gets the feel of Maddalena (Rappacioli). Photo © 2006 Stephen Wright

One particular pleasure of Jim Heath's lustful Duke was the quality of his early top notes: immensely striking, and later bringing to their mutual 'addio' a gorgeous precision matched by hers, both clear as a bell. The paired flutes in support of 'caro nome' simply rendered Gilda's pure vocal line all the more sensational.

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Copyright © 8 October 2006 Roderic Dunnett, Coventry UK

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