A Personal Opinion
Today we shall talk about latest Opera performance. Giuseppe Verdi's "Rigoletto" was on stage in Ankara Opera House six times in last season. Ankara Opera house was established in early new republic years of 1930s. In our local opera environment, a critic/ writer is expected to be graduate of conservatory with education on classical music, in order to write an essay on an opera performance, and s/he has to be constructive at all times since opera performances are hard to play. I feel that this conception is not true. We do not have only music, but we have decor, costumes, roles, characters, and environment on the stage. If you are an opera fan, you should write and comment on what you feel.
Money does not buy everything for you, but money can buy you opera tickets. Enjoyment is up to you. Before writing this article, I saw "Rigoletto" opera in all six separate nights.
Rigoletto is a character of 16th century, a Clown. Opera is based on a story written by Viktor Hugo in year 1832. Libretto (lyrics) is written by Francesco Maria Piave in accordance with the censorship of the time so that time, place and names were changed. First performance took place in Venice in 1851. In Ankara opera house, first performance was in year 1950. I remember classic opera performance of Rigoletto at 16th century in Mantua when I was a kid. At that time, "La Donna Mobile" in 3rd act was translated and sung in Turkish as "Women are fickle," now it is played in original Italian, and up- screen digital translation is "Women are variable", surely it is more accurate.
In year 2010, I watched Rigoletto in Hamburg opera house in classic 16th century Mantua environment. I was played non-stop without any brake, started at 17:00 completed at 19:00 hours. We were too tired to watch, singers should have spent great effort at that time to complete. My seat was at the last row of parter.
Singers were mostly foreigners, with a few German nationals in leading roles and in choir.
In the opera, womanizer Duca di Montova seduces daughter of Earl of Montereno. Rigoletto makes fun of Earl, the father then curses him. Later Rigoletto's daughter Gilda is abducted, and raped by Duca. Rigoletto, to take revenge for his daughter's shame, hires a contract killer- Sparafucile to kill Duca. Final ends very painful.
Before watching Opera performance, I listened to the CD at home and at work many times. More or less, I was able to follow the tunes, after my listen count multiplied, I could follow more easily. I loved the melodic tune of Verdi's opera from start to finish.
The most beautiful full version as in YouTube video was one that was made for the movie in real Italian Mantua environment. "Placido Domingo", was playing the character of Rigoletto. I watched for more than two hours without breathing.
"Luciano Pavarotti" playing in the role of "Duca di Mantova" in Vienna State Opera was also extravagant, sumptuous, and extraordinary.
New York Metropolitan Opera, performance was adapted into "LasVegas 1960" environment for year 2012 staging. Duca plays "Frank Sinatra" like character, and "Marilyn Monreo" emerges as the Countess. Rigoletto, is now a nightclub bartender.
National Opera in London in year 1982, they played as adapted into "New York Mafia" which was a modern staging environment.
Wales Opera, American President's office (The Oval Office) have been used for the new adaptation. Duke was too flirtatious, and he was President John F. Kennedy.
In modern staging, hunchback clown Rigoletto is now a normal human being.
Directed by Mrs. Yekta Kara in Ankara Opera House, we are now in 1924 Mafia environment in Naples, Italy. There are many beautiful women on the stage.
We have more than 40 hit men of local Mafia organization whose boss is Duca. We wonder why we have more than 40 male voices in Mafia choir, where other performances do not have more than 20 members. Mafia choir sound is so high - so great that front seats of audience should have been abused with high volume.
Bariton Eralp Kiyici plays Rigoletto character, with a great- perfect sound as usual, however we have the impression that he is in 16th century Mantua character but not in year 1924 of Naples. Maybe he could not escape his classic role as he played many times earlier.
On the other hand, Bariton Çetin Kıranbay plays the same role, clad in a more modern character of Rigoletto, with a great "Al Pacino" look added.
Three beautiful soprano voices alternately starring in Ankara Opera with gorgeous appearance. In the role of Gilda, Çiğdem Önol, Görkem Ezgi Yıldırım, and Esra Çetiner.
I felt that I need to watch each one of the three nights, and I bought tickets to all three performances. We do not have any other similar new Opera staging this year in Ankara.
The role of "Duca di Mantova" is played by tenors Ihsan Ekbar, Şenol Talınlı and Murat Karahan, all strong, lyrical male sounds. But they should avoid physical contacts with the girls to explain how charming- how flirtatious they are. Tenor Ihsan Ekbar, lost his voice in the last act, however recovered later.
I will make certain distinction between our sopranos. Çiğdem Önal is an experienced great voice, but I wonder if she did heat up her voice properly earlier, so in the first act, her sound was too weak. We heard director's- angry, sad, desperate, frantic reaction from her soundproofed cubicle. Anyhow our soprano has reached to her melodic tone later.
On May 22, our lead Gilda character was played by young newcomer extraordinary Görkem Ezgi Yıldırım. She played the role of innocent young girl, Gilda, her age, her physical structure with her melodic soft sound were all very appropriate.
Last soprano, Esra Çetiner in the role of Gilda is another new talent, she performed an excellent character.
Esra and Görkem are still young, and in this role in particular are very convenient. We hope that soon we shall see them on great opera stages around the world.
Duke (Duca di Mantova) role is played by tenors Ihsan Akbar, Senol Talınlı and Murat Karahan. My personal feling is that Murat Karahan was the best, with appearance, voice and young flirtatious manners.
Singing aria"La Donna Mobile" song is not correct while sitting on a chair with legs on the table. The body could not produce sound properly. Voice choking. In New York Metropolitan Opera, the same song inspired by "Frank Sinatra", Duca, is standing on the stage as if he is singing rock music.
In the 2nd and 3rd acts, the engine voice of the platforms were mixed with orchestra's music. It should be avoided. It is also too difficult for leading roles to climb third floor of scaffolding, and then they start to sing. It is too tiring.
We have a new interpretation in the last act. Rigoletto commits suicide with a gun, upon agony of loosing her daughter, then opera fills with last mighty sad music of orchestra. This is new. Is it true? I do not know. Rigoletto is staging a suicide for the first time.
Although in our traditional environment, I would expect Rigoletto to take his revenge. Rigoletto should live with his suffering. This is an easy and politically incorrect solution for Rigoletto's fate. Anyhow final was very dramatic.
Duca and Sparafucile live at the end, and we feel that justice is not fulfilled.
Short roles in "Contessa di Ceprano", Güzin Yildiz, Meltem Gençtürk, Sinem Mustafaoğlu, enticing the role of Maddalena, -Yetişer Ferda, Oylun Erda, Sebnem- especially in the role of the bad guy assassin Sparafucile- Tuncay Kurtoğlu, Sabri Karabudak, Can Kocaay- were so good. I love the opera villains. It is too difficult to play the role of the bad guy right. I congratulate each one of them separately.
"Rigoletto" in Ankara Opera house was the work of exceptional world- class staging. Opera house was full in all three nights with many audiences at standing at sides. Mafia choir was perfect and strong from start to finish. Conductors, Rengin Gökmen (1st-2nd nights) and Alessandro Cedrano (in all the rest) accomplished extraordinary work.
Rigoletto opera was later repeated on stage in Aspendos Opera festival in Antalya, also in Istanbul Opera Festival in last summer. We hope to see in the next season in Ankara Opera house stage again.
With deepest regards.
Ankara, March-20, 2014