Opera North Rigoletto Review

Leeds Grand Theatre – until 1st April 2022

Reviewed by Dawn Smallwood


Rigoletto is a new Opera North production this season making its debut at the Leeds Grand Theatre. Composed by Giuseppe Verdi, written by Francesco Maria Piave and based on Victor Hugo’s Le Roi s’amuse, is a curse triggered tragedy which explores moral corruption, abuse of power, complex relationships, test of loyalties and the desires to protect and avenge. The opera’s characters and attitudes remind and resonate some of the composer’s other operas such as Othello and Macbeth and also Mozart’s Don Giovanni.

Directed by Femi Elufowoju jr this production touches on the traditional and the contemporary and the exclusive and the inclusive with some African, European, and Worldwide cultural themes. The director ensures that the opera is relevant today with some familiarities in its costumes and sets. The audience can engage how parallel the themes are in today’s society, particularly among the rich and ruling elite and how sadly the themes of tragedy, corruption, abuse of power and trust and misunderstood relationships can lead to devastating consequences and repercussions.

The opera is centred around three characters, Duke of Mantua (Roman Arndt), Rigoletto (Eric Greene) and Rigoletto’s daughter, Gilda (Jasmine Habersham), with the influential appearance of Count Monterone (Sir Willard White) who curses both the Duke and Rigoletto for their behaviour. The opera unravels secrecy, complicated relationships, abuse, revenge, sacrifice, and tragedy. The opera does not end well as fulfilled by Monterone’s curse. The three act opera projects Rigoletto well and how his actions make him the unfortunate and a powerless victim of the ruling class and elite.

Excellent performance by Arndt, Greene, Habersham and White whose excellent portrayals musically project their characters well. They are supported by a strong and talented chorus and the company who play the other characters that depict the story and themes under the choreography of Laïla Diallo. La donne è mobile is a familiar aria which many would recognise its melody in some other 19th Century Italian operas.

Rae Smith’s staging, supported by Howard Hudson’s lighting, works well with the story with a combination of the traditional and modern. This ensures there is a deeper understanding and appreciation for the characters and exploration of key themes. Verdi’s musical composition explores realities and expresses what matters in Rigoletto.

An excellent highly content production fit for the modern day as well as when it was first performed in 1851