Monday, 8 January 2018


To Covent Garden to see Verdi’s ‘Rigoletto’ - classic opera or contemporary exposé? When the shagfest of a first act started I realised ‘Rigoletto’ is a story of now, not of 1850 when Verdi wrote it.

It’s story of rape, female subjugation and lads’ banter.

Imagine the Duke of Mantua (aka Harvey Weinstein) in his court (“This production contains some nudity and scenes of a sexual nature” warns the programme, yep, writhing bodies and lots of pelvic thrusting). This is Hollywood, baby.

The Duke has just seduced/ravished (one of many such conquests) the daughter of a Count who’s rightly pissed off by this. The court jester, a crippled, misanthropic hunchback, Rigoletto, (think of Olivier’s Richard III without the poetry) derides this count who places a curse on him to Rigoletto’s great discomfiture.

Cut to his home to which he hurries to the beautiful, innocent Gilda his daughter. En route he meets the sinister Sparafucile, imagine a Check-a-Trade assassin openly plying his skills. Rigoletto says “not right now, son.” He lectures his sweeter than sweet Gilda on staying indoors, apart from her Sunday trips to church, to avoid men. He checks with Giovanna her nurse that she safely confined. (What sort of life is this? The girl is a prisoner.) But nursey being corrupt lets in a young man whom Gilda’s seen at church where she was hit by a thunderbolt when their eyes had met. But it’s really the Duke in disguise stalking a likely conquest…what a scallywag! When he gets in the house there are lots of surreptitious embraces and arias until they are interrupted.

Cut to the court. Someone has seen Gilda in Rigoletto’s house and assumes it is his mistress “let’s kidnap her” they chortle - bit of amusing female abduction - what fun! When Rigioletto interrupts them in flagrante they pretend it’s someone else’s wife they’re taking. “Put on this mask” they laugh so he can’t see what’s going on. And when he realises the truth it’s too late.

Back to court where the gang of rapists and criminals are congratulating themselves “nice one Cyril!” The Duke hurries off to the room where Gilda is (not just for a chat we can surmise). A miserable Rigoletto arrives and is ridiculed as his daughter is deflowered inside with Mantuan thoroughness. The curse is working!

Rigoletto plans revenge. He’ll get Sparafucile to kill the Duke. But it goes horribly wrong because Gilda, still in love with the ghastly Harvey Weinstein of Mantua, overhearing the plot to kill the Duke decides she’ll intercede so it is she, in the dark, not the Duke, who is stabbed. RIP. She dies. Rigoletto is destroyed with grief.

Thrillingly sung and performed, we men in the audience should have slunk out shamefaced. (If that’s pleasure son you can keep it.) Verdi does Sodom and Gomorrah brilliantly and timelessly. My ears joyed at the music, my brain fizzed with thoughts of male madness.

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