By Bob Evans
Tragedy follows tragedy; sadness creates more sadness in Giuseppe Verdi’s dark three-act opera, “Rigoletto,” now playing at Kansas City’s Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.
“Rigoletto” one of Verdi’s most known works derived from a play by Victor Hugo and tells the story of a court jester for the Duke of Mantua in Italy. Rigoletto, dislikes by many inside the court is known to ridicule others for the entertainment of the Duke, but oft times goes beyond convention, creating hard feelings and anger. One such event causes a Count to put a curse upon the mean-spirited jester.
Rigoletto’s life turns darker from that point onward. And, being a tragic opera, dark characters populate the story–a hired killer, an alluring dancer/murder accomplice, a Cassanova-style Duke who beds assorted and then discards them yesterday’s newspapers. But amongst all the dark and vile creatures of the story, stands an innocent ingenue, Gilda, Rigoletto’s beautiful and naive daughter.
The Kauffman Center for the Performing opened the opera on March 3 to a strong contingent of opera fans. Elaborate costumes; beautiful, elaborate sets, and thoroughly overwhelming vocalists swept the crowd into the story, magnified by the state of the art acoustics of the Kauffman auditorium. Dramatic lighting, the orchestra of Kansas City’s best musicians, and strong music director/conductor added to the theatrical experience of the production.
“Rigoletto” tells the story of innocence lost, overpowering love, unquenchable lust, debauchery, coupled with the darkness of vengeance, followed by the tragedy of death to the innocent. Oh, yes, “Rigoletto” follows a gloomy path from the onset as the story continues with darker, gloomy, situations toward a murky abyss.
Some of the outstanding pieces of this production lie in the crisp performance of the orchestra playing Verdi’s score and the conductor’s choices within the score. As for the talent on stage, the three principal vocalists delivered scorching solos on their arias, most notable on “Rigoletto’s” most famous aria delivered by the Duke, “La donna è mobile.”
“Lyric Opera of Kansas City returns to its Italian roots to revel in the gritty realism of Verdi’s dark “Rigoletto,” directed by David Gately and featuring major Lyric Opera debuts of Leo An as Rigoletto, Nicole Haslett as Gilda, and Peixin Chen as Sparafucile. Returns to Lyric Opera include Scott Quinn as Duke or Mantua, Zanda Svede as Maddalena, and Andrew Gangestad as Count Monterone,” a spokesman for KC Lyric Opera said.
The vocal performances in the four lead roles were, as expected, phenomenal. The crispness of each note and the ability to make the highest notes forceful or tender was exceptional. The performers added the tenderness, heartache, bravura, and tragedy as dictated by the story line.
Tags: Kansas City Lyric Opera, “Rigoletto”, Opera, Kansas City Theater, Kansas City Performing Arts, Kansas City Arts & Entertainment, Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, KCPA