Rigoletto happens to be one of my favorite operas, maybe because of my dad. My father's not hunchbacked, nor would he ever put a hit out on anyone, but the sharp tongue, the defiance, and the fierce devotion to his loved ones, that's my dad. I absolutely despise the fact that barking and mugging are so typical nowadays for Rigoletto. The bug-eyes, the snarling, the sobbing/laughing, walking with a severe hunchback. Watch various Leo Nucci videos of Rigoletto from the recent years to see what I'm talking about. Lucic has been careful to avoid the "Rigoletto"-isms. Lucic mostly avoids any of this and concentrates instead on singing. I think he went a little too far in making this Rigoletto an aural experience. He often stood completely upright as he stood downstage center to sing, and I was thinking that a slight hunch of the shoulders might have had more dramatic effect. Still, what a wonderful change to have this role actually sung, and he sang with so much feeling that I could not help but feel his pain.
I wish I could say the same about Giuseppe Filianoti. I sincerely hope he was sick tonight, and thus not sounding his best, because if this is the best he can sound then ... The voice has become hard and metallic, and he cannot negotiate any notes around the passagio or above the staff with ease, not even the cadenza at the end of "Parmi veder le lagrime." I thought he might actually choke during "Possente amor." Many of his notes have a strangulated sound to them that sounds like late-in-the-day Martinelli. The high B climax to "La Donna e mobile" was unfortunate. He's certainly handsome, and looks like he could fit in with The Tudors or Borgias cast. But he sounds awful. Or sounded awful last night.
Here are some clips singing the Duke in earlier productions. Voice has always been a bit metallic, but nothing like the strangulated, struggling tenor I heard tonight.
Then I read that for some reason the Act Two set was dropped this year. I have no idea why. Otto Schenk was the original director but I doubt nowadays much is going on in rehearsals other than "chorus enters stage left, Rigoletto, enter stage right." I heard this Rigoletto is getting its "farewell tour" this season. Hopefully the next Rigoletto will be slightly more dynamic.