With Verdi’s Rigoletto the season 2013-14 at the Teatro dell'Opera in Rome has come to an end. This is the first production of an opera in the theatre after conductor Riccardo Muti resigned in September, denouncing a lack of "serenity", and after the announcement that nearly 200 members of its permanent orchestra and chorus will be fired at the end of the year. Musicians being dismissed could well be re-engaged as part of an “outsourced” orchestra. The Italian opera world is afflicted by financial cuts, strikes, debits and more, and seems to be undergoing more melodrama behind the scenes than on the stage; this despite the fact that the country was the birthplace of opera in the 16th century and home to many of the greatest composers of the genre, from Monteverdi to Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti, Verdi and Puccini.

This new production of Rigoletto, staged by Leo Muscato, was somehow ambivalent, as it fluctuated from a more than traditional conception to some fancy ideas here and there, as the director clearly intended to give priority to the gloomy colours of a bleak drama, with a sprinkling of expressionistic smack.

The singing cast worked finely: baritone Francesco Landolfi was quite good in the role of Rigoletto and seconded the conductor with an intense interpretation, showing natural vocal abilities. A credible Rigoletto, he took the stage apparently at ease, and from his most famous aria "Cortigiani, vil razza dannata” to the tragic end he took on more and more dramatic tone.

Gianluca Terranova made an excellent impression as the Duke of Mantua, as he portrayed the dissolute sensuality of the character with an unstrained, limpid voice. Claudia Boyle was a captivating Gilda and, even if she showed some rigidity in the coloratura of "Caro nome", she movingly depicted the character with dramatic accents and robust high notes.

Mikhail Korobeynikov (Sparafucile) was a good stage presence, but a perhaps his voice was a bit too rigid, as was Alisa Kolosova’s (Maddalena), who in addition exceeded in pushing attacks. The rest of the cast was adequate and sang with efficient professionalism.

Renato Palumbo’s conducting was the best part of this Rigoletto. Each single page of the score was resolved by Palumbo with the right tempos and, thus exalting Verdi's invention never losing control uncontrollably even in the most incandescent passages. Also, he was capable of unveiling unexpected tones in the most intense and dramatic exchanges between Rigoletto and his daughter.

The orchestra backed the conductor, highlighting the musical values of the score and following a constant narrative line which allowed the audience to not get lost behind the details. At times their volume was dominant over the singing, but this did not affect the overall result.  The performance of the choir prepared by Roberto Gabbiani, was excellent, both in singing and in acting.

Director Leo Muscato created a more than acceptable staging, given the few financial resources. His direction of the singers was good. Each movement of each character was appropriate and aimed at increasing the comprehension of the plot and the expressiveness of the singing. The sets by Federica Parolini were only made ​​with curtains surrounding the stage and isolating single portions, now evoking the luxurious rooms of the Palazzo Ducale in Mantua by means of brocade draperies, now Gilda’s home with a single brass bed, now Sparafucile’s tavern with a wooden table.

Silvia Aymonino costumes moved the time of action to the end of 19th century, thus accentuating the expressionistic touch sought out by the director. The audience seemed to approve this reading, as at the end it was cheered with a warm applause.