1999 - Bel Canto Opera’s production of


English libretto and stage direction by Tom Boyd

Orchestra conducted by the Music Director: William Bell

Two lives so demolished in the course of one day.

"This five-star production with its sumptuous costumes and brilliant effects promises to be the talk of Cheltenham...another triumph with this well-paced production of Verdi's masterpiece in Tom Boyd's vigorous new translation." The Gloucestershire ECHO

"Bel Canto Opera Company's production of Verdi's Rigoletto is great art. And, perhaps more importantly, marvellous entertainment. One can praise and praise again and still not encapsulate the essence of a memorable evening...the perfection of the principals...the enchantment of a Tom Boyd libretto meshing seamlessly with Verdi's sublime score." The Wilts. & Gloucestershire STANDARD (click for full reviews) 

Performances at The Sundial Theatre, Cirencester - 19 & 20 Feb. -- The Playhouse, Cheltenham - 23, 24, 26 & 27 Feb. 1999

Tom Boyd's English version was performed by Stanley Opera at the Concordia Theatre, Hinckley, Leicestershire in April 2011.

CLICK ABOVE to see Rigoletto's meeting with Sparafucile, and the end of Act III 


RIGOLETTO - David Purcell

THE DUKE OF MANTUA - Michael Powell

GILDA - Maria Lancaster

MADDALENA - Susan Black

SPARAFUCILE - Edward Harper

GIOVANNA - Joan Self; MONTERONE - Peter Wells; BORSA - Bob Cook; COUNTESS CEPRANO - Jenny Abbott; COUNT CEPRANO - John Sheen ; MARULLO - Tim Cranmore


 CLICK ABOVE to see the end of the opera xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx CLICK ABOVE to hear the Rigoletto Quartet

DUKE: (to Borsa) I've a mission to help every damsel in distress. They require love; I give them the love they lack. They are grateful to me for my grande largesse. And once they've sampled it...they always come back. It's a service I offer to womankind, whether ladies of rank or those of low birth. They are equal - to me they're the same...a ravishing face, a figure of style and grace, craving a night with me - whoever they may be - all over the earth!


DUKE: (to the Countess Ceprano) My blood burns like fire tonight. Dare I manifest my feeling? I yearn with desire tonight...your beauty's too appealing.

COUNTESS: Please don't go on. You shouldn't say these things to me.

DUKE: Your smile preposessing, your blushes appealing, revealing, confessing the passion that I'm feeling. (she follows him off)


RIGOLETTO: (to Count Ceprano) The horns on your head are already expanding!


RIGOLETTO: (to Monterone) You are presumptuous! You have conspired against our will, Signore! Is it some form of madness,,,or just plain badness that makes you prattle on about your daughter's honour?

RIGOLETTO: I feel the father's curse on me! Oh, humankind! Wicked nature! Witness the product of your vile creation; a hunchback - twisted, mailicious. A laughing stock - crippled and vicious. Damned at birth. Put on earth only to entertain! Have I not got a soul or feelings? Can I not shed tears? If I'm cruel and rude, you made me play the monster.



SPARAFUCILE: I specialise in getting rid of foes and rivals. I’m sure there’s someone...a man you wish to dispose of.

RIGOLETTO: (to himself) Assassin! (to Sparafucile) How much would be your fee for a grandee who’s titled?

SPARAFUCILE: Nobles are somewhat dearer.

CLICK HERE to see and hear this scene on YouTube

GILDA: I have no sister here, no kin nor brother. Am I to never know about my mother?

RIGOLETTO: Oh, how can I face the thoughts of her? Memories I’d hope to sever. Saintly, my angel here on earth...the joy that has left me forever. Ugly, a humpback, destitute...yet I was so loved by her. Then God took her...I lost her...she fled to heaven’s door, joining the other angels. You are now all I have, saving my life from misery. Praise God, creating a daughter...an angel, as she was.

RIGOLETTO: Giovanna, guard this child of mine... this dearest jewel that I adore. Protect my angel...this flower divine...and keep her pure forever more. Day and night you must take care...be aware....keep her secure. The world is full of sin and dangers...evil strangers preying on the pure!



DUKE: Love is the sunshine that lights up our loneliness, a shrine of holiness our spirit nourishes. Love is a flower that burgeons in wilderness... reprieving solitude...it blooms and flourishes.


COURTIERS: She was the paramour of Rigoletto; she sang a soulful song and went inside. Then who should come along...but Rigoletto! Marullo said we'd come to fetch Ceprano's bride! The fool believed him...he's not too clever. We all decieved him. He joined the fun. We tied a blindfold so that he never could see or hear us...and all the time we made the climb he never heard a single word from anyone!

RIGOLETTO: Noble lords, forgive me for transgressions on my part. Offer pity upon an old man with a broken heart. In this life, she’s my only possession. Kindness would cost you nothing. She is all I live for. Return her to me. Take pity on this fool. You see, I’m at your mercy. My lords, take pity on me!

DUKE: Fairest daughter of the muse of love, I am taken prisoner by your charms...so imprison me within your arms and I will serve you as a slave for your every whim!

MADDALENA: I have never had a client quite so desperate to flatter. I've had every kind of lover, but they don't come here to chatter. You make me laugh, you really do. You joke with me...I'll joke with you! Ah, men!

GILDA:Ah, that he is speaking of loving this woman! To think he told me he would love me forever.

RIGOLETTO; Quiet! There's little point in crying. Now you know he was lying.

MADDALENA: I have a plan that will make us both happy. You’ve already had half your fee from the hunchback...he’s coming at midnight to pay you the balance. You kill him...it’s easy. You take all his money. You have your full fee, so you won’t lose a thing. SPARAFUCILE: What can you be saying? That I kill my client? That I steal his money? You think I’m dishonest? I honour a cortract. My word is my bond!

RIGOLETTO: Gilda! My Gilda! I've lost her. Ah! The curse of the father! (Rigoletto throws himself upon his child's body as the curtain falls)



Opera is the talk of the town

Conductor William Bell has achieved another triumph with this well-paced production of Verdi’s masterpiece in Tom Boyd’s vigorous new translation.

In a drama which teems with unsavoury characters David Purcell is magnificent as the hunchback court jester whose acid tongue turns everyone against him. But behind the vicious leer he reveals moments of tenderness in his concern for his only daughter.

Maria Lancaster enchants as Gilda, whose devotion to her father does not prevent her from running off with her lover, the Duke of Mantua. Michael Powell is a dapper Duke who oozes charm but dismisses women as fickle and unreliable.

There is excellent support, notably from the sinister Edward Harper as the killer Sparafucile and the chorus of courtiers.

Rigoletto’s duets with Gilda are particularly well blended and newcomer Michael Powell’s soaring tenor voice is an especial delight. The orchestra, too, sounded excellent amid the fine acoustics of the comfortable Sundial Theatre.

This five-star production with its sumptuous costumes and brilliant effects promises to be the talk of Cheltenham when it opens at the Playhouse tomorrow.

Roger Jones


Opera for the sceptics

Great art is a marriage of the intellectual, the aesthetic and the emotional. By this definition, the Bel Canto Opera Company’s production of Verdi’s Rigoletto is great art. And, perhaps more importantly, marvellous entertainment.

Bel Canto’s offerings have become among the most eagerly awaited events on the Gloucestershire entertainment calendar.

Since the recruitment of Tom Boyd as director/writer to add his linguistic and theatrical flair to Bill Bell’s enthusiasm and musical aptitude, the company has gone from strength to strength. No longer simply keeping opera alive for opera buffs, Rigoletto is a production to convert all but the most dyed-in-the-wool sceptic.

To attempt a review brings home the inadequacy of superlatives. I used superlatives - and justifiably - to describe Bel Canto’s production of Tosca. But Rigoletto is on a different plane...One can praise and praise again and still not encapsulate the essence of a memorable evening...the perfection of the principals...the enchantment of a Tom Boyd libretto meshing seamlessly with Verdi’s sublime score...a plot that could easily have descended into melodrama was lifted to genuine tragedy by the strength and intensity of their performances...and the quartet in the final act literally made the spine tingle.

Perhaps the best tribute is that as the final curtain fell my initial reaction was that I wanted to see it again.

Stuart Russell