Those darn Don Juans (or Don Giovannis)!
The Canadian Opera Company’s latest production of the classic Giueseppe Verdi opera “Rigoletto” – the Italian libretto was written by Francesco Maria Piave and originally based on Victor Hugo’s play “Le roi s’amuse – came to the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto.
The story surrounds Rigoletto, performed by Hawaiian baritone Quinn Kelsey, a jester who lives a double-life. He serves the Duke of Mantua, played by Mexican tenor David Lomeli, and the father of Gilda, marvellously interpreted by Ekaterina Sadovnikova, a Russian soprano. Rigoletto wants to protect and isolate Gilda from the corrupt world. However, things do not go according to plan as Gilda falls in love with the Duke.
Rigoletto proves to his daughter that the Duke is nothing but an unfaithful and immoral individual. This leads Rigoletto to hire assassin Sparafucile, performed by Canadian bass Phillip Ens, and Maddalena (American mezzo-soprano Kendall Gladen) to kill Mantua. After Maddalena falls for the Duke, she encourages Sparafucile to not kill him.
Instead, they unknowingly kill Gilda after she posed as a homeless person seeking shelter in order to save the life of Mantua, despite him cheating and not actually loving her. Rigoletto discovers her body and mourns the loss of his daughter.
The Glorious Production
Although the COC’s opera has received mixed reviews from Toronto critics, the COC’s glorious “Rigoletto” achieved the triumphant traditions of the opera’s both morose and romantic themes: love, hate, deceit, revenge and family.
The orchestra, led by Johannes Debus, maintained a perfect tempo, intensity and rhythm throughout the two-hour performance.
As soon as the timeless classic arias “Le Donna e Mobile,” “Caro Nome” and “Cortigiani, vil razza dannata” were echoed throughout the opera house, the smiles on people’s faces, the goosebumps on the patrons’ bodies and the applause from the opera admirers’ hands engulfed the auditorium.
Local critics have called the stage setting and lighting “bland” and “uninspiring.” However, I must confess that I enjoyed Michael Levine’s set and costume design and Duane Schuler’s lighting because it was grand and traditional in the sense that the COC did not contemporize the opera as they have done in the past to the classics
This is the first time that I have ever heard Quinn Kelsey. His performance as the hunchback jester was phenomenal. Despite Rigoletto as the main character, his assisting cast (and even the extras) deserved the standing ovation they received from us.
Indeed, after hearing Lomeli’s rendition of the well-known aria “La donna e mobile,” I can die a happy man.
(This season’s “Rigoletto” was special for me as I proposed to my girlfriend during the standing ovation.)