rigoletto cast

Mark S Doss as Rigoletto, Marina Monzo (in a previous performance) as Gilda, Emma Carrington as Maddalena and David Junghoon Kim  as The Duke. Picture: Richard Hubert Smith


Welsh National Opera

Birmingham Hippodrome


Set in the Kennedy era White House, there is a scandalous start to the Welsh National Opera’s adaptation of Verdi’s Rigoletto. The production opens on The Duke (David Junghoon Kim) straddled by a scantily clad woman at one of his debauched parties.

From the off this is compelling theatre, with the company filling the auditorium with a glorious sound as guests at The Duke’s party; setting the bar for this first-class production.

Mark S Doss is magnetic in the title role as The Duke’s right-hand man, who is cursed by Count Monterone (Eddie Wade), after mocking him when he arrives at the party demanding the return of his daughter, who has been seduced by The Duke.

Following this, courtiers abduct Rigoletto’s daughter, believing her to be his mistress, and deliver her to The Duke’s bedroom – much to his delight, as he has previously noticed her in church. When Rigoletto finds out he swears revenge and employs an assassin.

Hunchbacked, Rigoletto, was a masterpiece played by Mark S Doss with a vulnerability, subtlety and rich baritone. Doss, who returns to the Company following last spring’s Tosca, is a joy to watch and hear.

The relationship between Rigoletto and his daughter, Gilda, (Haegee Lee), was beautifully portrayed through spine-tingling duets, with Doss and Lee bringing a realism to the piece’s heart-rending conclusion.

Lee herself is mesmerising. With a powerful, crystal-clear, soprano voice she was the epitome of a young girl in love. She evoked every emotion with precision and shone on stage.

David Junghoon Kim is impressive as The Duke, with the cool, arrogant, swagger expected of a powerful womaniser living a frivolous life. While the character is unlikeable, he delights the audience - particularly with the much-anticipated La donna è mobile. 

Meanwhile, James Platt, as hitman Sparafucile, was a superb callous brute, typifying this gritty tragedy.   

Performances were matched by the orchestra, under conductor Alexander Joel, the 1960’s costumes and simple, effective set and lighting (which added atmospheric shadows as the drama heightened).

While this is a must for seasoned opera followers, the novice will also find much to enjoy. This is a truly memorable piece of theatre, wonderfully directed by James Macdonald.

Verdi wrote that Rigoletto was his best opera and it’s clear to see why, having seen the WNO’s adaptation.

Rigoletto is at Birmingham Hippodrome on Saturday, 9 November, at 3pm. Tickets £22 to £56.

Louise Grifferty


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