Rigoletto – "The real subject of the drama is the curse. Whom has it afflicted? Triboulet, the king's jester? No, Tribulet the father, the human who has a heart, has a daughter, and that is where it all lies," Victor Hugo wrote in 1832 in the foreword to his drama Le roi s'amuse. In 1851 the play formed the basis for Giuseppe Verdi's Italian opera Rigoletto. The opera was named after the main character, who with the transfer of the action from France to Italy, had his name changed from Triboulet to Rigoletto. The opera's main figure is thus a hunchbacked jester, an outsider who lives on the fringes of society. Rigoletto lives a double life – we see him as a cynical court jester whose tongue is able to wound cruelly, but also as a loving father of his only daughter, Gilda, who is everything in the world to him. When Gilda is defiled by the Duke, Rigoletto is beside himself with anger, and lives only for revenge. He orders a hired killer, Sparafucile, to kill the Duke. But, through a cruel twist of fate, it is not the Duke who dies, but, to Rigoletto's great despair, his own daughter, who out of love for the Duke sacrifices herself for him. Rigoletto had its world premiere in Venice in 1851, and still regularly appears on stages the world over.
About the director of "Rigoletto": Robert Alföldi (b.1967) – Actor, theatre and film director, formerly the artistic head of the Bárka Theatre and from 2008 manager of the National Theatre in Budapest. He has directed a large number of productions in Hungary, Slovakia, Croatia and the US, and his productions have been invited to international festivals. "Conservative audiences are outraged by his productions, since in classical plays he emphasises the sexual element, homosexuality and various highly controversial themes (...) However, since he took over at the helm of Budapest's first theatre, audience numbers have been going up and up, with 2009 being the first year that the National Theatre turned a profit. Alföldi has also gained an award from the Association of Hungarian Critics for his overhaul of the National Theatre (...) The debate surrounding his work at the Hungarian National Theatre has reopened questions concerning artistic freedom and the general issue of whether a "national theatre" should function as a historical museum," Vítězslav Sladký has written.
Over the course of a decade, Alföldi brought five Hungarian productions to the Theatre festival: The Merchant of Venice (1998), The Robbers (1999), Macbeth (2003), 120 Days Of The Marquis de Sade (2005) and The Beggar's Opera (2007).
Róbert Alföldi leads the singers to theatrically-stylised but psychologically credible and understandable actions. Rigoletto laughs at Monterone, but weaves in and out of the Duke's courtiers, peeping after them, like a dog who is afraid and barks only when he is behind a fence. When his daughter is carried off, he throws himself on his knees in front of the courtiers, but they all disappear, leaving him alone on stage. And so Rigoletto turns with his beseeching request to the public. Appellative theatre. At the same time, it is also entertaining – when the Duke kicks off his boots in a childish tantrum, or when the courtiers perform some sort of cabaret number: a couple of dance steps, waving their bowler hats in unison. Alföldi manages to introduce light relief just at the right moment; everything takes its cue from the timing and rhythm, the character of the music. In contrast to the small comic gags, the serious, tragic moments are all the more intense: the end, for example, in which Rigoletto embraces a bloodied body, wrapped in a polythene bag, and Gilda, a white angel, stands sadly over him, saying goodbye to him (...) I found the encounter with this remarkable Hungarian director, the director of the National Theatre in Budapest, an inspiring impulse for Czech opera theatre. It provides a marked contrast to traditional opera, while offering a path that should also be acceptable to a more conservative audience.
Lenka Šaldová, Divadelní noviny
The director and singers address the audience with almost harrowing rawness, freezing the audience's feelings with unusually concentrated instincts and emotions. The director has deromanticised this romantic opera based on a romantic play by Victor Hugo. He underlines the acuteness of the relations between the characters, whom set designer Karel Glogr and costume designer Anni Füzér have brought into a stylised modernity. However, conductor Ivan Pařík would never be able to deromanticise the music, even if he wanted to. He has managed brilliantly to harmonise the orchestra's playing with the idiosyncratically-directed action on stage, and with the singing in the Italian original. At the premiere, the soloists were dominated by the excellent and, without exaggeration, world-class performance of Ivan Kusnjer from the National Theatre in Prague, who has for years been both bewitching and moving in the title role. Other high-quality performances were given by Richard Samek (the Duke of Mantua), Gabrijela Ubavić (Gilda), David Szendiuch (Sparafucile) and Jana Tetourová (Maddalena), the performers of other roles and the chorus, prepared by Zdeněk Vimr.
Petr Dvořák, Plzeňský deník
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