Verdi makes triumphant return to the Cairo Opera House

Jonathan Spollen
4 Min Read

A few weeks after their impressive performance of Guiseppe Verdi’s opera “Un Ballo in Maschera, the Cairo Opera Company gave a fine rendition of the Italian composer’s “Rigoletto Wednesday evening.

Aldo Magnato resumed his duties as choirmaster while Nayer Nagui conducted. Abdallah Saad, who was previously the director of Verdi’s “Aida at the Opera House, directed the three-act play.

Widely held to be one of Verdi’s finest works, “Rigoletto is based on the Victor Hugo play “Le Roi S’amuse (The King Enjoys Himself), satirizing the life of then French King Francis I.

It was 50 years before French censors allowed Hugo’s play to take to the stage for its critical treatment of the king, and Verdi’s work faced similar difficulties from Austrian authorities in Italy who forced a number of changes to its content and title before giving it the go ahead.

The storyline revolves around a buffoonish jester named Rigoletto, who works in the court of the hedonistic Duke of Mantua – played by the outstanding Hisham El Guindy – and his beloved daughter Gilda, whom he keeps hidden away from the world.

The opening scene sees Rigoletto mocking the husbands of the women the Duke takes to bed with him, urging him to imprison or execute them.

A nobleman and father of one of the women the Duke has slept with, Count Monterone, enters and denounces the Duke, incurring the mockery of Rigoletto, before cursing both he and the Duke.

Rigoletto is perturbed by the curse, and before long discovers his daughter has been abducted by the city’s noblemen, only to find later that she has slept with the Duke and is now in love with him.

Rigoletto’s mind turns to revenge and he plots to murder the Duke, but a bitter end lies in store as Gilda sacrifices herself and is killed in his stead, fulfilling Monterone’s curse and underscoring the opera’s strong message about the tragedy of revenge.

While Moustafa Mohamed fails to inspire as Rigoletto, Dalia Farouk, after a few weak notes in earlier arias, turns in a convincing performance as the naive Gilda, delivering a fantastic opening aria in Act II – “Tutte le Feste al Tempio (On All The Blessed Days) – and growing into her role as the opera progresses.

Hisham El Guindy swaggers around the stage as the imperious Duke, confidently flouting the corruption of a man drunk on his own power and insuperability from the law, turning in the standout performance of the evening.

Some of the sets are impressive too, in particular the Duke’s palace, which is adorned with gold and ostentatious statues of horses and lions.The musicians, as ever, are flawless.

Overall, the Cairo Opera Company’s “Rigoletto is an accomplished production, the only shame about the evening being the attendance, which was well below half of the Sayeed Darwish Hall’s capacity.

Rigoletto, which began its run Feb. 26, closes tonight and is well worth a visit. No bookings in advance are necessary.

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