DIRECTOR: Marthinus Basson
CAST: Fikile Mvinjelwa, Lukhanyo Moyake, Noluvuyiso Mpofu, Thomas Mohlamme, Nonhlanhla Yende
VENUE: Artscape Opera House until February 18
REVIEWER: Peter Tromp
Anyone who has seen even a few of Marthinus Basson’s theatre productions will attest to what a forward thinker he is. No two shows of his are alike and even after being honoured with a Lifetime Achievement award, he shows no signs of slowing down and is still pushing the envelope. The celebrated director has brought his creative restlessness to Cape Town Opera’s debut production of 2017, Verdi’s ‘Rigoletto’, and the effects are expectedly stimulating. Basson is no empty provocateur, though; the audacious design and visuals are underpinned with a story that is gripping and easy to follow, some breathtaking performances from the cast and a deep-rooted concern for humanity’s continued moral degradation.
As mentioned earlier, none of this is new to theatregoers, but opera fans that do not deviate from their preferred art form might be shocked at Basson’s methods. Ideas come flying at you at quite a canter and just about every trick of the stage is employed to tell this story of the famous, morally dubious hunchbacked court jester who tries to turn the tables on his masters, but whose obsession with revenge tragically backfires with the death of his beautiful, pure hearted daughter. Unlike a similarly audacious director like Matthew Wild, who when he is not on song, can allow his penchant for the eye-catching to overwhelm his narrative, Basson possesses the mastery to keep everything clear and concise for the audience, even when entire segments of the stage is moving. He never lets one become too overwhelmed, where one’s attention might stray from his characters.
Probably the best thing about this ‘Rigoletto’ is the performances Basson gets from his cast. Ever the actor’s director, just about every member of the ensemble gets their moment to shine, but it’s the work of his two leads that will live long in the memory. Fikile Mvinjelwa as Rigoletto has all of the gravitas you’d expect from a seasoned Metropolitan Opera performer, but it’s in the subtleties of his performance that he reveals his strength. No grandstanding from this phenomenal performer; all of it is in the service of the character. This is reportedly Noluvuyiso Mpofu’s last time as a full-fledged member of Cape Town Opera, before she departs for shores foreign to pursue a career as a freelancer, and what a way to go out. Mpofu has proven herself as a performer with a range and maturity belying her young years. Perhaps her best performance as part of the company came as Mary, Queen of Scots in Matthew Wild’s wonderful production of Donizetti’s ‘Maria Stuarda’ in 2015. She comes close to matching that high-water mark as Rigoletto’s virginal daughter, Gilda. Her interplay with Mvinjelwa is simply sublime, especially in the way their voices harmonise.
Don’t miss this opportunity to see one of SA’s best ever operatic exports back at home, as well as a bound-to-be international star. This is something special.
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