OMAHA: Rigoletto
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In Review > North America


Opera Omaha

“Opera Unbound” is the slogan for Opera Omaha’s 2014-2015 season, and the company successfully let loose with vibrant, contrasting visual and musical colors in its season’s first production, Giuseppe Verdi’s Rigoletto, on October 17.  A co-production with Boston Lyric Opera and Atlanta Opera, this Rigoletto was set in its original historical context, depicting a world where absolute rulers have absolute power over life and death. The scenic design by John Conklin, vibrantly lit by designer Robert Wierzel, featured a white marble replica of an ideal city taken from a Piero della Francesca painting, set above large walls creating “a dark pit where love, lust and revenge fuel the city.” The dark walls were brightened by a fractured Italian-style painting of Mars and Venus that symbolized the conflict within Rigoletto, trapped between his desire for vengeance against the Duke and his love for his daughter. Costume designer Victoria Tzykun crafted spectacular, colorful period clothes, among them the Duke’s gilded costume and Rigoletto’s blood red jester’s outfit in Act I, and a stunning vibrant blue cloak worn by Gilda in Act III.

The musical colors and expressive details were just as impressive. Led by conductor Steven White, the Omaha Symphony Orchestra provided full yet sensitive support and freedom to the singers. This was most apparent with Argentine baritone Fabiàn Veloz who sang the role of Rigoletto, marking his North American professional opera debut. In Act I his voice was warm and pleasing; by Act III it was brilliantly rich. The sensitivity with which he sang made the audience sympathetic to Rigoletto’s dilemma — although that sensitivity did occasionally seem to diminish the baritone’s on-stage energy. Rachele Gilmore, who sang the role of Gilda, was the audience favorite. Her crystalline voice and sensual shaping of “Caro nome” had just the right amount of desire and innocence to realize her character vividly.

The Duke was effectively sung by tenor Dinyar Vania. Although at times he seemed to struggle with the role’s demands in Act I, his performance of “Parme veder le lagrime” and “La donna è mobile” commendably displayed the Duke’s strength of will and his chauvinism.  

The rich, dark voice of Burak Bilgili added depth to the sinister Sparafucile. Audrey Babcock’s full-bodied mezzo was complemented by her vivacious portrayal of the temptress Maddalena.  Even the chorus shined in this “unbound” production, strikingly executing the dynamic shaping in “Zitti, ziti moviamo a vendetta.”  

Tomer Zvulun, the production’s original director, and Stephanie Havey, director for the Omaha mounting, made a number of interesting choices, using the scrim to separate the world’s reality from Rigoletto’s reality.  This was most effectively done at the end of Act III, where Gilda appeared behind the scrim as a vision in Rigoletto’s mind thus alleviating the awkwardness of Gilda singing the heart-wrenching final duet while being held by Rigoletto. The end result was powerful and emotional — the profound love shared by father and daughter could be seen as well as heard. spacer 


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