“Rigoletto” – the New Endeavours of Director Plamen Kartaloff

The new premiere of the National Opera, commissioned and supported morally and materially by the Japanese state, “Rigoletto” by Giuseppe Verdi (libretto by Francesco Maria Piave, based on Victor Hugo’s drama “Le roi s’amuse”) was entrusted to the already famous far beyond our borders opera director Plamen Kartaloff. And although he was pressed for time, because he was working simultaneously on two other plays – “Lucia di Lammermoor” in Novi Sad and “Les contes d’Hoffmann” in Maribor (Slovenia), his famous capacity for organization and a clear conception of the play allowed him to put his requirements and tasks to the performers and the production team of the National Opera, where he was greeted with applause.

Work on the visualization of the stage action began in the midst of radically different stage setting, where the scale of production is related to a chamber-style detailed fragmentary approach aimed at revealing all the ideological and philosophical premises, slumbering in the drama of Hugo and Verdi’s score. The result appears as a new product, new “phenomenon”, a new reading of Verdi’s immortal work of genius. The production has achieved unity of the stage environment (artist Lyubomir Yordanov), and the dramatic play, dressed in music, leading to one cohesive alloy of impact over the audience. In the performance the action is almost cinematic in its development and dynamics following the implementation of the vision of the director, the conductor (Borislav Ivanov) and the scenographer and costumes artist (Elena Ivanova). The impression is – full-sounding and effective performance, realised according to the modern style of the opera genre.

Alexander Krunev’s Rigoletto is a remarkable achievement for this baritone who recently demonstrated real skill in terms of vocal development. All this, backed by very successful detailed experiencing of the stage presence, allowed him to carve the image of a jester – Rigoletto, and his cruel fate for which he himself is guilty as he does not respond to Gilda’s pleas for forgiveness.
Midst of a series of “buffoon-like” images of the courtiers, the voluptuous Duke and the cursing Monterone, the character of Gilda is the bright counterpoint, the bustling purity of thoughts and actions which, as a result of love, lead her to self-sacrifice. Anna-Maria Ivanova managed very well with the challenges of the vocal and stage performance. Her crystal heights, especially in the aria of the second act, subdued the audience.

The multidimensional character of the libertine Duke was presented by Rumen Doykov with emotional zeal and vocally refined part with memorable moments (“La donna è mobile”). Rumen Doykov’s mature mastery allows him to sculpt his overall vocal-stage presence in a dynamically nuanced behaviour. Svetozar Rangelov as Sparafucile is active and expressive. His sonorous bass is a wealth for every operatic cast. The rest – Dimitar Stanchev (Monterone), Stefka Mineva (Giovanna), Stoil Georgiev (Ceprano), Elena Chavdarova’s Maddalena are in full harmony with the requirements and fit perfectly into the dramatic action.

The National Opera Orchestra under the baton of Borislav Ivanov is a magnificent commentator on the drama and has remarkable performances. The solos of the woodwinds (oboe, flute, clarinet) and the rest of the group deserve special mention. There is the sumptuous and solid sound of the string section where the first violins were almost “crying” so heartbreakingly that we had the feeling that they were matching the vocal expressiveness of the solo cast. The dramatic force and expression of the brasses, the remarkable effectiveness of the basses, and the cello solo in the monologue of Rigoletto – these are the brilliant achievements of the orchestra. The male choir (conductor Hristo Kazandzhiev) achieved marked success with its expressive fine sound – rich in timbres and with compelling stage presence.

By Bozhidar Gatev

Duma Daily, Sofia, 09.03.2005


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