Theatre Review: Rigoletto, Empire Theatre, Liverpool starring Nikoloz Lagvilava & Vuvu Mpofu

Image Source: ATG


Format: Opera
Genre: Drama
Writer: Robert Carson
Cast: Nikoloz Lagvilava, Vuvu Mpofu, Matteo Lippi, Oleg Budaratskiy & Madeleine Shaw
Review Date: November 23 2019
Performances: November 23 2019, 7.15pm
Location: Empire Theatre, Liverpool
Duration: 140 Minutes incl. an interval
Age Rating: 10+

Rigoletto brought the three-day operatic productions of Glyndebourne Tour at Liverpool’s Empire Theatre to a close, and based on this performance, the mini-tour ended on a high for the Glyndebourne team.


We are introduced early to Rigoletto (Nikoloz Lagvilava), who is attempting to make the Duke Of Mantua (Matteo Lippi) laugh in his role as jester. He makes him laugh, but he also angers him, and when he is accused of seducing their daughter, the Duke responds by casting Rigoletto with a curse. Over time, Rigoletto realises that not only does he seem to be cursed, but also his daughter Gilda (Vuvu Mpofu) in a roundabout way, because he learns that she has met the Duke and fallen for him, made worse by the fact that his curse stemmed from the Duke himself. This along with other run-ins turns Rigoletto from a figure of fun and happiness to one of ridicule and suffering.

That being said, the Duke and Rigoletto are still connected, so much so that Rigoletto is advised to play a role in the kidnapping of a Countess named Ceprano; however, he soon discovers to his horror that the target of their plot is actually his daughter Gilda, who is now all grown up. Rigoletto is devastated, and he can do little about it as the Duke’s team take control of the most precious person in his life. He also realises that the curse is taking full effect, and his life will never be the same again, but how he and his daughter will react and attempt to counter these goings-on are the questions around which the rest of this show revolve.


Unlike Rigoletto and L’Elisir D’amore from earlier in the week, there is a more heart-wrenching, tragic and sinister tone to this plot, but that is not a bad thing. Instead, it demonstrates how opera can handle all of the emotions on the scale, from light-hearted humour to tear-inducing sadness. Key to all of this is Nikoloz Lagvilana in the role of Rigoletto, who is an at times confused and bumbling figure, but at other times is very much relatable and extremely sympathetic. As the show transpires, it becomes clear that he is merely a pawn in the grander plans of the Duke, yet as the focal point of the show, it is his performance which matters the most, and he steps up to the plate with a strong showing that had the Empire audience’s attention throughout.

The story itself was occasionally a little hard to understand, but in its favour was the appearance once more of the English subtitles screen above the stage, which ensured that anybody who might have been confused could follow what was going on. There were other strong performances from the supporting cast, and the settings were authentic and true to the nature of the scenes, particularly those involving the Duke. And at less than 2 ½ hours, the running time was just right, especially for those who will have been attending an opera show for the very first time.


Overall, Rigoletto was about love, revenge, emotions, passion and loyalty, and it brought all of these elements together to deliver a very enjoyable show. With a very good orchestra, clever scenes, believable costumes, outstanding performers and impeccable singers, this was a show that I will remember fondly.


Target Audience: Adults Aged 50+
Content: 1/5 – Infrequent Mild Innuendo
Recommendation?: Yes
Overall Rating: 8.5/10 – Excellent

Glyndebourne Tour continue to tour the country with L’Elisir D’amore, Rinaldo and Rigoletto. For further details, click here.