Over the week-end, the Italian TV network RAI broadcast Verdi's Rigoletto, performed live from Mantua and set in the locations which most closely match the action in the opera. The hunchbacked jester was performed by Plácido Domingo, his second major outing as a baritone, and a follow-up to his 1992 performance as Cavaradossi in the acclaimed film of Tosca made at the Castel Sant'Angelo and other original locations in Rome. I watched the first act - if you're in the UK: that and the next two are up on iPlayer at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00ts068.

I'm a lifelong fan of Rigoletto and fussy about performances of it, and I can't recommend the movie more highly. Using the real ducal palace and dark alleyways in Mantua might have turned into a bit of a gimmick, but it didn't: director Mario Bellocchio uses it to make the story absolutely credible (this gets harder in act III, I admit), bringing out fantastic pieces of acting from all the performers. Vittorio Grigolo is simply sensational as the Duke, all flashing eyes and urgent in his courtship. Domingo plays up Rigoletto's sympathetic side rather than his mastiness, which probably suits his voice: he perfectly portrays world-weariness and anguish. As Gilda, the young soprano Julia Novikova is utterly watchable and nails the ferocious trills and runs of Caro Nome right in the middle of every note.

It's a movie to remind one that opera is alive and well and delivering performances of great power. I'll be watching the next couple of acts this evening!

6th September 2010