★★★★☆ - Delicious
At its best opera is inspiring, provoking, moving, and even life-changing. All because of its voluptuous complexity -- its rich layers of music, drama and spectacle. All of those layers were certainly evident in the offering of Giuseppe Verdi’s “Rigoletto”, presented by Opera Las Vegas at Judy Bayley Theater, June 9-11. (For the uninitiated, the performers sing in Italian, with English supertitles providing a real-time translation.) The company of 13 primary characters, 7 chorus members, 4 supporting cast members and an orchestra – numbering 23 players - along with a conductor delivered a delicious four star production.
Chances are you’ve even heard Verdi’s jaunty, insanely catchy “La donna e mobile.” But it’s far from “Rigoletto’s” only memorable melody. “People will say, ‘I’ve heard that music before,’ ” Ms. DeVol says of the opera’s “absolutely unforgettable melodies,” which people “were singing in the streets the day after the (1851) premiere.”
Tragic forces shape this world-famous tale of a father’s love, a Duke’s debauchery, an Italian court’s collective deception and a deeply personal thirst for brutal revenge. The fates of the hunch-backed jester and a libidinous royal philanderer collide in composer Giuseppe Verdi’s stunning masterpiece of passion and vengeance. Featuring some of opera’s most famous melodies, Rigoletto is the story of a daughter abducted, a father outraged, and a potent curse fulfilled.
Michael Chioldi, internationally-renowned for his portrayal of the title character, heads an all-star cast, with full orchestra (under the musical direction of the Metropolitan Opera’s Gregory Buchalter), and stage direction by Cynthia Stokes. Las Vegas Philharmonic concertmaster, De Ann Letourneau, is concertmaster, and set design is by Lily Bartenstein.
“Las Vegas has a lot of live music — but everything’s amplified,” Chioldi observes. “To experience the power of voice, there’s something that touches you.”
And despite “the sort of elitism that follows opera” and “sort of scares people away,” Chioldi maintains that audiences will experience “a really joyous night” discovering “an all-encompassing art form.”
Composed between 1850 and 1851, Verdi's opera, Rigoletto, is a twisted tale of lust, desire, love, and deceit. It was adored by audiences when it first premiered at La Fenice in Venice on March 11, 1851, and even now, over 160 years later, it is one of the world's most performed operas. According to Operabase, which gathers statistical information from opera houses around the world, Verdi's Rigoletto was the 8th most performed opera in the world during the 2014/15 season.
Rigoletto is the first of Verdi’s middle period operas and marks a shift towards coherent musical tapestries as opposed to the typical Italian aria format (though Verdi by no means leaves the form behind). There are fewer applause breaks than in his earlier works, the drama seemingly rushing headlong towards its conclusion.
The Duke of Mantua sings the recognizable aria “La Donne e Mobile" ("Woman is fickle") in the third act as he flirts with Maddalena, the sister of the assassin, Sparafucile. The legend goes that, Verdi was acutely aware that he had written something of a humdinger in this aria, so to avoid the tune becoming common property to all of Venice, he swore his singers to secrecy and wouldn’t provide the music for the song until mere days before the first performance!
The Opera Las Vegas cast included:
Michael Chioldi, Rigoletto: The baritone was recently the cover photo story of the national magazine Classical Singer. He has quickly gained the reputation as one of the most sought-after dramatic baritones of his generation.
So Young Park, Gilda: A native of Pusan, South Korea, the soprano is a graduate of the Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist program with the Los Angeles Opera, where she recently performed Blondchen (The Abduction from the Seraglio) and Olympia (The Tales of Hoffmann).
Kirk Dougherty, Duke of Mantua: The tenor just completed the season as a Resident Artist with Opera San Jose, where he performed Edgardo (Lucia di Lammermoor), Rodolfo (La Bohème), Almaviva (Il barbiere di Siviglia), and Sprink in the Pulitzer Prize-winning opera by Kevin Puts, Silent Night.
Rubin Casas, Sparafucile: The bass-baritone from Pasadena, Texas makes his company and role debut as Sparafucile. His Banco in Macbeth (Opera Company of Middlebury) was acclaimed as “solid and beautifully sung.”
Danielle Marcelle Bond, Maddalena: Brava! for her performance in Long Beach Opera’s The Death of Klinghoffer. She played the title role in the US premiere of Marilyn Forever, prompting Opera News to declare, ”She sang sumptuously, expressively.”
Opera Las Vegas was established in 1999 by Gloria Allen, a world renowned opera singer, and several other like-minded individuals who wanted to bring this art form to Southern Nevada. Opera Las Vegas is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation with a staff comprised solely of volunteers skilled in management, planning and marketing, as well as the musical and theatrical arts. Las Vegas is lucky to have Luana DeVol (General Director), James Sohre (Artistic Director) and their dedicated Board of Directors remain fully committed to spread the gospel of opera.