The debut of Simon Keenlyside as Rigoletto — while not so headline grabbing as that of Bryn Terfel as Hans Sachs — is nevertheless an opera event of some moment. This fine baritone, with many key roles in the repertoire already under his belt, is rather young to be giving us Verdi’s vengeful hunchback (as, indeed, is Terfel for Sachs). This means, though, that his forceful take on the character will be enjoyed in performances in the opera houses of the world for years to come.

Some might hope that these will be in rather less idiosyncratic productions than that of director James Macdonald for WNO, which shifts the action from Renaissance Mantua to the White House of (one guesses) the 1960s or 70s, well suggested in the sleek designs of Robert Innes Hopkins. My view, having twice encountered the version since its 2002 unveiling, is that it works well, especially in its presentation of the spivily-suited gang of crooked toadies that surround ‘Duke’. That this pivotal role was necessarily entrusted to a substituting Shaun Dixon last Friday, owing to the indisposition of Gwyn Hughes Jones, meant the revival was hardly heard at its best.

But Keenlyside’s vigorous presentation of Rigoletto — reminiscent in his shameless display of deformity of Antony Sher as Richard III — had a potent appeal, especially in scenes with the delightful Gilda — a schoolgirl in her white socks and headband — as portrayed by the American soprano Sarah Coburn.

A Myra Hindley-like Maddalena from Leah-Narian Jones and David Soar’s frightening presence as her contract-killer brother Sparafucile were other compelling features of a thrilling night of musical drama under the young (still only 32!) Spanish conductor Pablo Hera-Casado.

There are further performances on Friday in Cardiff and next Wednesday and Friday at the Birmingham Hippodrome.