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  • Rigoletto was ‘colourful and spectacular’

    By Ron Ellis

    Rigoletto by Giuseppe Verdi

    An Ellen Kent Production

    Liverpool Empire

    AFTER failing to make it through storms and blizzards to Glasgow and York on the previous two nights, the joint efforts of Storm Emma and the Beast from the East were unable to prevent Ellen Kent’s touring company from bringing their splendid version of Rigoletto, to the Liverpool Empire last Friday to the delight of a packed audience.

    Rigoletto is based on a play by Les Misérables author, Victor Hugo, which authorities tried to ban because it exposed the depravity of the then ruling classes.

    If opera is melodrama set to music then Ellen Kent is the mistress of melodrama. Her productions have attracted over six million viewers in the 26 years she has been touring, winning countless awards all over Europe and bringing opera to the masses.

    Her shows are noted for their spectacular sets, flamboyant costumes and showbiz effects, witnessed by the breathtaking opening scene set in an opulent Palace ballroom where a party was taking place with two attractive topless courtesans being caressed by courtiers, a third one being ravished and two live greyhounds quietly watching events.

    Only Christine, the advertised Golden Eagle, was missing, its journey from Lincoln Castle delayed by the weather.

    The National President’s Orchestra of Ukraine, led by star conductor Vasyl Vasylenko, provided a vibrant soundtrack to the dancing and singing with an electronic screen above stage translating the lyrics into English.

    Iurie Gisca gave a fine performance as Rigoletto, jester to the lecherous Duke of Mantua played by Vitalii Liskovetskyi whose version of the famous La Donna e Mobile (Woman is fickle) was a highlight of the show.

    Alyona Kistenova excelled with her excellent vocal range as Rigoletto’s daughter, Gilda, a role she played on the 2014 tour. Vadym Chernihovskyi doubled as assassin Sparafucile and Count Monterone, who puts the curse on Rigoletto.

    After the show, I had a drink with Ellen Kent who explained to me why she started featuring greyhounds instead of the Afghan Hounds she used to use in Rigoletto.

    “So many greyhounds are abandoned at five when their racing days are over and they live until they are 12,” she said. “They are gentle dogs who need no more than two 15 minute walks a day. They are healthy, don’t shed much hair and are very affectionate. Ideal pets for older people.”

    To prove her point, Ellen had invited Greyhound Trust Mersey & Chester branch to bring several of their greyhounds into the foyer to meet the theatregoers and raise awareness of the breed.

    Star rating 8 out of 10. A colourful and spectacular production.

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