A shockingly fresh, exciting and gritty Rigoletto

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Award-winning director Marthinus Basson launches CTO’s 2017 season with a contemporary staging of Verdi’s Rigoletto that places themes of power, money, corruption, abuse, misogyny and prejudice in an African context.

Basson says: “I think human nature is pretty set and sophistication only a very thin veneer. When I was a schoolboy I started reading the Roman classics and satires. From these I learned that things had not really changed much over 2,000 years, only our technology.”

Indeed technology plays an integral part in Rigoletto, with characters on stage talking on cellphones, taking selfies and filming videos. Eyes are everywhere, watching, and even the audience doesn’t avoid the omniscient gaze.

Metropolitan Opera regular Fikile Mvinjelwa returns to Cape Town to perform the title role. A founder member of the Cape Town Opera Studio, Mvinjelwa left South Africa to pursue a successful international career. Some opera fans might recall his performance of Rigoletto in 2008 at Athlone’s Joseph Stone Auditorium. Mvinjelwa understudied Rigoletto at the Metropolitan Opera in the 2008/2009 season and it is a role to which he often returns.

In 2010, The Washington Post described him as “the pick hit of the evening… a genuinely riveting, truly memorable tragic hero/avenger” in the Virginia Opera’s production of Rigoletto.

Basson, who first worked with Mvinjelwa more than 20 years ago at the outset of his career, says: “It’s truly inspiring to reconnect with Fikile now that he’s so accomplished and successful.”

In addition to Mvinjelwa, Basson is working with a cast of South Africa’s foremost young singers, and says: “I find it very inspiring to work with such a host of dedicated and talented singers who are willing, able and open to try out anything you throw at them. They truly set the bar exceptionally high for themselves and under the inspired guidance of Maestro Khan it is a joy to see them Fosbury Flop, with growing finesse, over every difficulty, technical challenge and emotional demand of this dark and dangerous piece concocted by Verdi.”

Hans Gabor Belvedere Singing Competition finalist Lukhanyo Moyake sings the role of the Duke of Mantua with what Basson describes as “a wonderful and wicked charm”. Moyake had a wonderful year in 2016: he won the International Emmerich Smola-Förderpreis in Baden-Baden, Germany and travelled to Portugal in September to sing the role of José in Carmen at the Teatro Nacional de São Carlos.

Noluvuyiso Mpofu takes the role of Gilda. Since stealing audiences’ hearts with her portrayal of Violetta in La traviata in 2015, Mpofu has gained a huge local support base, and was awarded the Audience Prize, as well as Second Prize, at the Hans Gabor Belvedere Singing Competition in 2016. This is the last chance to see Mpofu perform as a member of Cape Town Opera as, following Rigoletto, she will launch her freelance international career.

Rigoletto is a must see.

Please note, this production is unsuitable for under 16s.

Four performances only at Artscape: February