“Rigoletto” in the Oslo Fjord
“Rigoletto” in the Oslo Fjord
Brilliant performers and fresh directing lifts “Rigoletto” in the old fortress.
Rigoletto. Music Giuseppe Verdi.
Text Francesco Maria Piave, after the play “Le roi s’amuse” by Victor Hugo, 1832.
Premiere Venice 1851, Oscarsborg Summer Opera August 14th
Review by Torkil Baden, Photos: Hans-Christian Bøhler
OSCARSBORG/NORWAY: What could be more perfect: a Sunday afternoon on a fortress island, the sun is shining, one thousand people enjoy life with a glass of wine and one of the world’s most melodic operas? Even the conductor wears sunglasses.
The audience is taken in by the special atmosphere and by a cast and an orchestra that brings new life into Verdi’s masterpiece.
In 1851 songs like “Questa o quella”, “Caro nome” and “La donna è mobile” ” became rapidly popular also outside the stage and gave the 38 year old Verdi a boost in his promising career.
Oscarsborg, the old fortress island outside Oslo, has the last ten years been the arena for the “ABC” repertory “Aida”, “Boheme” and Carmen”. Also other opera classics fitting this arctic Verona has been on the schedule through a handful of August showings. The opera organization defends a major position amongst the many district opera companies in the country.
It is a daring enterprise without door opera in Norway since August often produces a lot of rain. But the audience is seldom scared away, and the dress code is more hiking then fashion. The showings attract an audience from Oslo and a large surrounding, and all have to arrive in boats, special opera ferries and private boats of all kinds.
The small organization has a good nose for collecting young vocal talents. This year the male lead singers are picked from Canada and Sweden, duke David Curry and Rigoletto Fredrik Zetterström. They make out a brilliant cast together with the Norwegian Gilda, Lina Johnsonfrom the Norwegian Opera in Oslo.
The outdoor situation demands an extra lot from the stage, even if the acoustics between the castle walls are good. But these singers have the power to come across. Fredrik Zetterström in the title role has a wonderful, warm baritone of great solidity. His daughter Gilda is performed by Lina Johnson, young as a teenager in appearance. She has a light, elegant soprano, also when singing coloratura in “Caro nome” when the director wants her lying on her back on the floor.
David Curry as the duke is a persistent, Italian-like tenor with great resources.
Stein Winge is a veteran theatre and opera director who luckily wants to identify himself with this summer company when he is not travelling the globe. His trademark is a fresh, theatrical attitude to the material. In some earlier productions this might lead away from the music. But this time he strengthens the possibilities in the score and the libretto with a striking visuality.
Cocaine and nakedness
Nothing human is strange to him, and the actors must be prepared to go all the way. So what is more natural in this plot than a half naked girl.
“Rigoletto” is a tragic story, but its tragedy builds up from a joyful live-and-let-live opening. It starts off with a condemnation of faithfulness. Then the action accelerates with the girl who sacrifies her own life for her treacherous boy friend and the father who fails to protect his beloved daughter. The opera’s original title was “La maledizione” since a curse is a red thread throughout the story.
This summer the playboy duke is looking for his victims in a contemporary setting with strong color costumes from to-day, and cocaine is a natural ingredient. He actually may be recognizeable as a famous Norwegian businessman!
The sets match the cleanliness of the modern costumes, large blue and yellow surfaces. The audience in such an arena might easily be distracted by a helicopter or a stroke of wind and rain, but they are caught by the performance. The lack of atmospheric decorations gives focus to the singers who fill the stage with intensity and movement and fortunately with little of traditional clichees.
Musical director Terje Boye Hansen knows his score and his musicians. He lets the music breathe with great flexibility, but manages to combine his restrained style with great precision and temperament. Also the male chorus has great qualities.
The projection of the Norwegian translation is a problem in daylight and should be easier to read. Also the transportation from the island after the show is difficult, and the little boat brings the passengers only half the way. The capacity needs to be expanded – what about a host of volunteer local boats? The Oscarsborg is an event in the small coastal town of Drøbak, and even the boat people could have a part…..
Duke: David Curry
Rigoletto: Fredrik Zetterström
Gilda: Lina Johnson
Sparafucile: Peter Klaveness
Maddalena: Angelica Voje
Director: Stein Winge
Musical director: Terje Boye Hansen
Sets: Benoit Dugardyn
Costumes: Ingeborg Bernerth
Oslofjord Chamberphilharmonia and Oscarsborg Opera Choir