LIVE greyhounds a Chilean blue eagle... oh yes, and some of the best voices around adorned the stage of the 'Royal' last night (Monday) as Ellen Kent's trio of operas kicked off in style with Rigoletto.

Directed by Kent – who has had some of the best operatic productions on around the country for 26 years – this was a sumptuous, stylish and magnetic piece of art, with a set to die for in lavish fashion, and the wonderful telling of a wonderful story at the Theatre Royal Windsor.

Rigoletto is a three-act opera by Giuseppe Verdi. The Italian libretto was written by Francesco Maria Piave based on the play Le roi s'amuse by Victor Hugo. Despite serious initial problems with the Austrian censors who had control over northern Italian theatres at the time, the opera had a triumphant premiere at La Fenice in Venice in March 1851.

It is widely considered to be the first of the operatic masterpieces of Verdi's middle-to-late career. Its tragic story revolves around the licentious Duke of Mantua, his hunch-backed court jester Rigoletto, and Rigoletto's beautiful daughter Gilda. The opera's original title, La maledizione (The Curse), refers to a curse placed on both the Duke and Rigoletto by a courtier whose daughter the Duke has seduced with Rigoletto's encouragement. The curse comes to fruition when Gilda falls in love with the Duke and sacrifices her life to save him from assassins hired by her father.

With such famous arias as Questa o quella and La donna è mobile this was a superb production with masterful singing.

Iurie Gisca as Rigoletto was brilliant his warm and strong baritone striking the right chords at the precise moments of oohs and ahhs, especially when we had our first naked woman stripped in the orgy-ridden palace of the duke.

It's gritty and not for the faint hearted.

Vitalii Liskovetskyi as the duke was mammoth in his tenor outing making some of the most famous operatic numbers seem effortless.

Alyona Kistenyova as Gilda is the most beautiful of sopranos and her relationship with her father and the duke is tortuously displayed.

The cast was perfect and the scenes sublime in their complexity yet subtlety.

Bravo Elen, bravo.

Tonight (Tuesday) we await La Traviata. Tomorrow sees Madama Butterfly. And a superb re-telling of Charles Dickens' Great Expectations is on Thursday. Can't wait.

Ditch the tellybox and get some top class culture at the 'Royal'.

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