WNO's first-night revival of Verdi's Rigoletto in the version by producer James Macdonald was notable for a number of 'firsts'.

Most long-awaited was the title-role debut of the great British baritone Simon Keenlyside, but there were newcomer appearances, too, for American soprano Sarah Coburn as Rigoletto's's ill-fated daughter Gilda and young Spanish conductor Pablo Heras-Casado in the pit.

Keenlyside's portrayal was uncompromising in the power of its invective, though at moments it seemed vocally overwrought as he attacked the high baritone tessitura with manic energy.

His flailing Rigoletto was younger than one expected - the singer's actual age, in fact - while Coburn's Gilda was made to look younger than the singer actually is.

This might seem irrelevant but both characters took on a different edge. Certainly, Gilda's death at the final curtain seemed to leave Rigoletto with not an ounce of resignation but lots of capability for further vengeful acts, even at the level of removing what may be a prosthetic leg and whacking someone with it.

Coburn, in also her UK debut and despite some mushy Italian, strove for the heights. As this opera proceeds on the strength of its duets, she and Keenlyside were often exhilaratingly well matched.

Shaun Dixon, standing in for the indisposed Gwyn Hughes Jones, was a relaxed Duke who sang his big arias brightly, and David Soar dug deeply for the assassin Sparafucile’s depravity, with Leah Marian-Jones as a sisterly hanger-on.

Keeping the seething Keenlyside on track was not the least of Heras-Casado’s achievements with the orchestra.