Monday, February 27, 2012

Rigoletto at the Sacramento Opera


Yesterday we saw the Sacramento Opera production of Rigoletto.   This is an opera that deserves more respect.  Verdi has a lot of superb music in his operas and so it is easy to neglect this 19th century morality play.   But the music is superb.   The one below is Cornell MacNeil, who was one of the best voices for the role recent history.  (The best thing about this particular video- besides MacNeil's voice - is that it lists a bunch of baritone roles from the opera.  If you are interested click back to the performance and you will see a list of performances to compare.

The story is a simple one from Victor Hugo.  But like most operas it has a lot of twists.   Rigoletto is the sharp-tongued jester in a court of a Duke who is a bit of a player.  He is the toady of his boss and suggests that men in the court who object to the Duke's philandering should be imprisoned or killed.   A Count who objects to the Duke seducing his daughter is sentenced to prison and when he is taken out pronounces a curse on both the Duke and Rigoletto.   The one good thing in Rigoletto's life is his innocent daughter, whom the Duke meets and seduces.   In order for some members of the court to get back at Rigoletto's barbs they kidnap his daughter and bring her to the Duke.  Rigoletto is convinced that the kidnapping is of another woman and so participates in it.  (The courtiers think his daughter Gilda is his mistress.)  Eventually, Rigoletto makes a bargain with an assassin (Sparafucile) to kill the Duke and Rigoletto makes the move to get out of town with his daughter.  She is dressed in men's clothes (to disguise her) and she somehow stops in front of Sparafucile's house and hears a plot to kill the Duke (who she is still in love with) so decides to substitute herself for the Duke.   Rigoletto gets back to dump the body of the Duke into the river and discovers that his daughter is the one who has been killed.   

The story is less important than the music and this opera has a dozen memorable arias.  In the Sacramento Opera production, they got a wonderful mix of voices.  Especially strong were Rigoletto (David Small), Gilda (Katrina Thurman) and Sparafucile (Andrew Gangestad).   Unfortunately, under the current arrangements the performance is only given twice and yesterday was the last day.

The Opera company has had a lot of challenges in the last couple of years.  This performance showed what is possible.   One hopes that the coming season will begin where this one left off.

1 comment:

eveningson said...

Rigoletto is a great opera if one has a good tenor.

I listened to an american tenor in Austria once, I forget his name, but he used to be a truck driver. I would travel far to see him again.