Act II of Placido Domingo's "Rigoletto" from Mantua is just over, live on Italian TV -- Act III to follow tonight at 11:10PM, and there are a few more first impressions, before a full review to come tomorrow.
DP Vittorio Storaro -- the man who shot Last Tango in Paris, The Conformist, Apocalypse Now (now in a new edition), Reds, The Last Emperor among many others -- switched beautifully from the Caravaggio, oil-lamp palette from last night to a fantastic, multilayered use of natural day light coming from the large windows of the Palazzo.
Conductor Zubin Mehta speeded up the tempi a lot -- last night's tempi, as OC reported, were definitely dragging, probably due to technical issues -- the show goes live, the orchestra is elsewhere, the singers have to pick up cues from carefully placed small LCD screens showing them thje conductor. Act II had the benefit of speedier tempi, a very lively, elegant Verdi.
Vittorio Grigolo, looking hotter and hotter, dripped sexual tension and youthful vigor -- until Placidone showed up and gave a performance that, far from perfect vocally, especially in the "Vendetta, tremenda vendetta" where his lack of vocal weight was clear, is astonishing in its psychological depth.
As OC wrote last night, PD's Rigoletto is a court jester of intimate dignity, that carries the weight of his shame, of his sins -- a man on the brink of madness whose cruelty is played very close to his chest, a man who understands that it's the love for his daughter that keeps him human -- that keeps him sane.
Julia Novikova, who wasn't particularly strong in Act I (nerves? if that's the case, it's very human and understandable), grew a lot in Act II, vocally and especially dramatically.Even if Domingo had declared to the Italian press that Rigoletto moves him so much that he was afraid he'd cry during the performance, we did not expect that to actually happen. But fleetingly, in Marco Bellocchio's close up (more tomorrow in the full review about Bellocchio's many subtle, wildly intelligent touches) in the natural light and deep shadow of Storaro's genius -- Storaro's Rigoletto is a primal, merciless story of good vs evil, of light versus darkness -- "Ah! piangi, fanciulla, scorrer fa il pianto sul mio cor" was underscored by Domingo's tears. Staring in his daughter's eyes, Domingo's Rigoletto cries. Gilda, in her fear and sorrow, calls that "the voice of an angel", an angel to comfort her -- Domingo understood that it is indeed an angel speaking, not one with wings but one of the better angels of our nature. It's Rigoletto's humanity singing, the reason for Rigoletto's -- and Domingo's -- tears.
For all its vocal limitations (and thankfully this is a miked-up TV show, no necessity to project in an opera house), this is an extraordinary performance.
More tonight about Act III, and a full review tomorrow.