Shagimuratova steals show in HGO’s Rigoletto

The cast boasted
Eric Cutler in his role debut as the Duke, Texan Scott Hendricks as Rigoletto,
and Houston favorite Andrea Silvestrelli as Sparafucile. While the men
acquitted themselves well, none compared to the performance given by Russian
soprano Albina Shagimuratova as Gilda.

Houston patrons know Shagimuratova well, having heard her in previous
seasons when she was a member of the company’s young artist program. Her
Gilda, however, gave them a chance to see the soprano after her
development—and what a development it was. From the first note of her
duet with Hendricks, Shagimuratova sent a clear, full lyric voice into the
house that spun line after line of legato with remarkable ease. Her “Caro
nome”—the best I’ve ever heard—employed perfectly
executed trills and just the right amount of ornamentation.
Shagimuratova’s clarity was astounding in both the act three quartet and
the storm trio, projecting easily over both the orchestra and the strong voices
of her colleagues. Her acting was spot on, and she showed more sensitivity to
her role than any of the other characters. Albina Shagimuratova’s Gilda
was one to remember.

Eric Cutler, in his role debut, gave a solid assumption of the licentious
Duke of Mantua. His voice remained the light instrument it was when he first
burst onto the international scene, but he managed to add enough heft to his
sound to get past the heavier orchestrated sections of Verdi’s score.
Cutler seemed most comfortable in the lyrical sections, showing off a strong
top in his act one duet with Gilda and later giving a seamless rendition of
“Parmi veder le lagrime.” His Duke isn’t perfect yet; the
tenor forgot at least two lines and needs to polish up his phrasing, but with
time the role could prove strong for him.

Texan Scott Hendricks gave a mixed performance as Rigoletto. The San Antonio
native has the range, heft, and legato for the role, but on opening night his
vocal clarity too often gave way to an over darkened, muddy sound. His
“Cortigiani” showed great pathos, but that was it—you got the
feeling from Hendricks’ portrayal that he was simply imposing a romantic
portrayal (from other roles in his repertoire, like Silvio or di Luna) on a
father-daughter relationship. It didn’t always work, and was sometimes
awkward. More work vocally and theatrically could greatly improve his

Italian bass Andrea Silvestrelli gave his usual effortlessly powerful
performance. In a production that focused on shadows, fog, and darkness,
Silvestrelli bounded in and out of sight, showing up at just the right times
and portraying the assassin with just enough dark humor. The Italian’s
powerful bass boomed throughout the house to great effect but with careful
attention not to overpower his colleagues.

Octavio_Moreno_Ericz_Cutler.gifOctavio Moreno (Marullo) and Eric Cutler (Duke of Mantua)

Silvestrelli’s on-stage sister, Russian mezzo Maria Markina, gave a sexually charged depiction of
Maddalena. Markina, a member of HGO’s young artist program, had
incredible chemistry with Cutler—the act three quartet was one of the
highlights of the night, with Cutler and Markina’s interaction bordering
on soft porn while Shagimuratova’s Gilda looked on. Markina’s warm
voice showed ample size for the Brown Theater; look for her to grow into larger
roles with the company over the next few years. Of the supporting roles,
Bradley Garvin as Monterone sang particularly well, projecting a large, ringing
bass-baritone into the house in the curse scene.

The subtle production focused mainly on colorful backgrounds and timely
scene changes. Several period paintings adorned the backdrops while the sets
for acts one and two were sparse. The final act brought out a framed set for
Sparafucile’s house which served the quartet action well. Director Lindy
Hume could have worked with Hendricks a little more on his acting, which
wasn’t so much non-existent as it was misguided and confusing at times.
Hume provided some clever touches but mostly let the action carry on in a
traditional way. Patrick Summers’ conducting was lethargic in the first
act but came to life afterwards.

Scott_Hendricks_Albina_Shag.gifScott Hendricks (Rigoletto) and Albina Shagimuratova (Gilda)

If you’re wondering how good a Rigoletto can be
without a perfect baritone, you need look no further than HGO’s
production—with a soprano as Gilda who gave one of the most complete
performances in recent HGO history combined with a solid supporting cast, the
company has a sure hit on its hands.

Paul Wooley

image_description=Scott Hendricks in the title role of Verdi’s Rigoletto [Photo by Felix Sanchez courtesy of Houston Grand Opera]
product_title=Giuseppe Verdi: Rigoletto
product_by=Scott Hendricks: Rigoletto; Eric Cutler: Duke of Mantua: Albina Shagimuratova: Gilda; Andrea Silvestrelli: Sparafucile; Bradley Garvin: Monterone; Maria Markina: Maddalena; Jamie Barton: Giovanna; Adam Cioffari: Count Ceprano; Octavio Moreno: Marullo; Faith Sherman: Countess Ceprano. Houston Grand Opera Chorus and Orchestra. Patrick Summers, conductor. Lindy Hume, director.
product_id=Above: Scott Hendricks in the title role of Verdi’s Rigoletto

All photos by Felix Sanchez courtesy of Houston Grand Opera