12 fascinating facts about ENO's Rigoletto

16th February 2017 in News

In February 2017 Jonathan Miller’s much-loved ‘Mafia’ style production made a welcome return to our stage. To celebrate the 12th revival of this seminal staging, we’d like to share with you 12 fascinating facts…

ENO chorus dancing around the stage

1. ENO has styled six different productions of Rigoletto.

2. Our upcoming run will be the 38th since our very first staging of the opera at Sadler’s Wells in 1931.

3. Jonathan Miller’s mafia inspired Rigoletto premiered at ENO on 22 September 1982.

4. Did you know it was Miller’s wife who gave him the idea for the unusual mafia setting? She reminded him of a particular scene in the film Some Like it Hot when Detective Mulligan questions Spats Colombo over the massacre in the garage:

     MULLIGAN: Say, Maestro – where were you at three o’clock on St. Valentine’s Day?

     SPATS: Me? I was at Rigoletto.

     MULLIGAN: What’s his first name? And where does he live?

     SPATS: That’s an opera, you ignoramus.

5. Lord Harewood named this production as one of his proudest moments while working for ENO. “I not only find it a source of pleasure and of pride when I see it again in any of its revivals but I remember what a pleasure it had been to work on it with Jonathan all those years ago.”

6. Miller had to convince ENO to allow him to ‘update’ Rigoletto and set it in the 1950’s. His reasoning was that we shouldn’t assume what Verdi had in mind or that a traditional setting is a more effective way of realising the opera than any other. “Nineteenth-century composers were comparatively haphazard in their choice of historical period, and putting the action in the distant past was one way of creating an exotic atmosphere. The future may be just as effective even if it happens to be one with which the composer was unacquainted”.

7. Miller’s Rigoletto has toured the UK and USA.

8. Since 1982 we’ve had:

     13 Rigolettos including Anthony Michaels-Moore, Alan Opie, John Rawnsley

     15 Gildas including Susan Bullock, Marie McLaughlan, Katherine Whyte

     9 Dukes including Peter Auty, Arthur Davies, Michael Fabiano

9. The original Costume Designer, Rosemary Verco, based her concept on a photo of Sophia Loren in the 1957 film The Pride and the Passion

10. In 2003, the Channel 4 documentary Operatunity launched a nationwide talent search to find someone who had never sung opera professionally, and see if they could handle a major role with ENO. The judging panel included Music Director Paul Daniel and Mary King. 2500 applicants auditioned and were whittled down to two winners: Jane Gilchrist and Denise Leigh, who shared the title role of Gilda in a special one-off performance of Rigoletto. Over 75% of the audience attending the final live performance were first time attendees to ENO and the London Coliseum.

11. The official last performance of Miller’s production was in 1992. It was subsequently revived in 1994, 1996, 1999, 2003, 2006 and 2009! 2017 marks its 8th revival since the ‘final’ curtain call.

12. The opening night on 2 February 2017 was performance number 159.