Rigoletto, Miami Lyric Opera

Wanton rankling may start off with high
ratings and a spike in tickets sales but can easily degenerate into opprobrium
and murk an artistic work’s essence. The opera Verdi and Piave set out to
complete for Teatro La Fenice was on course for such an ignoble providence were
it not for the duo’s imagination, and discretion. La maledizione was
the working title for the opera almost cursed with the sort of attention that
would dull its artistic merits.

Distilled from a Victor Hugo play with a checkered performance past, the
opera would meet with its own curses before its premiere in 1851. The play
(Le roi s’amuse) and the opera (Rigoletto) revolve around
such a curse, something Miami Lyric Opera Director Raffaele Cardone reminded of
when he addressed the audience pre-performance on opening night June 23rd.
Placing the context of Rigoletto directly on, and finding its dramatic
pole in, the curse teased the imagination as to what was to come, holding out
the suspense of the grist for Rigoletto’s mill: La

This performance marks a whole new set of standards for MLO. Sets (designed
by Carlos Arditti), still on the main backdrops, were more suggestive of the
piece (in this case, 16th century Mantova) and redolent of specific scenes:
there were columns and archways at the party and a nicely lit (in blue)
background, the alley where the sanction was dealt was as an hallucination –
a dark and muggy picture; Rigoletto’s domicile was depicted by a patently
different scene (turning a bit cheeky when a flimsy wall shook terribly as the
jester set the ladder on it). The curtain rose for the final time to a tavern
that any assassin might find a suitable safe house.

Artistic expression and sensibility in staging too have improved for the
small company. A soft screen hazed the view of the opening scene, the ballroom
at the Ducal palace; courtiers held their dance poses for the length of the
overture. Movement in the room thereafter was well-planned, with varied
exchanges as members of the court came in contact with each other. Blocking and
shifting of positions was thoughtful too for the Act Three gathering of
Gilda’s abductors. Adequate effects (strobes/lighting by Kevin Roman) in that
final scene at the tavern saw to a turbulent tempest.

Musically, including in the singing, those heading the company have much to
be pleased with. Conductor Doris Lang Kosloff and players seemed to work well
together, resulting in nice string articulation (with fine violins in
Cortigliani), sweet flute phrasing (in the work’s echoed themes) and
well-modulated dynamics. Miguel A. Raymat beat clear, accurate, and powerful
sounds on the kettle drum, supporting the overture, the storm, and the finale.

Cuban baritone Nelson Martinez first appeared with MLO in a Gala concert in
the spring of 2007; Martinez sang a Rigoletto later that same season.
With the company he as appeared as Rossini’s Figaro, Escamillo, and Giorgio
Germont. Locally, Martinez is considered a tested talent; his proved to be the
most schooled voice — technically and stylistically — in this cast. As far
as size (and heartiness) and the ease of its use in high tessitura,
Martinez’s voice does well by Verdi. It is hard to forget the force of the
high note he held out to close ‘Pari siamo’.

MLO went out of town for the Gilda. Gina Galati is an American soprano that
has studied in a Verdian Academy at Bussetto; she has the voice — its flutter
fitting for ‘Caro nome’ — and looks of a soubrette. This was Galati’s
first singing engagement with MLO; she shared Gilda with local Susana Diaz (the
Gilda on June 25th). As the cad, the vehicle through which Verdi’s opera gets
interesting, the Duke of Mantua, Aurelio Dominguez had some laudable moments in
this tricky role and his first outing with MLO (two other tenors sang on
subsequent performance evenings). The difficult recitative and aria that opens
Act Two, where the Duke implores the heavens over the snatching of Gilda, was a
triumph for the tenor. Dominguez ducked few obstacles, meeting Galati for the
high note in their duet.

MLO returnee Diego Baner made a fine Sparafucile vocally — the rapid
vibrato of his bass an interesting change of pace. On the stage, Baner
distracted with his tendency to look downward. Graduating from the Florida
Grand Opera chorus to a critical role here, Monterone, Cuban bass-baritone
Armando Naranjo clearly understands the importance of the curse; Naranjo
communicated anger with constant fervor in his singing. Lisseth Jimenez was a
saucy Maddalena of darkish tone and Jesse Vargas and Mathew Caines did good
work in their brief moments as Borsa and Marullo. Ketty Delgado (Giovanna) and
Erica Williams (Paggio) appeared for the first time with MLO.

Pablo Hernandez (Chorus Master) did not put his group to work for the storm
and the singers were musically rough here and there (in the second act, the men
were at odds over entrances and the text). In the case of costumes, Pamela De
Vercelly is credited for colorful work. Vercelly will not be faulted for
hosiery (a few with Swiss cheesy wear) unflattering to male cast members whose
best features are not their legs. One could be cursed with much worse.

La maledizione would also be a dummy title meant to throw
authorities off the scent of Verdi and Piave and their busy redactions of
Hugo’s Le roi s’amuse. Hugo encountered trouble mounting the play
in France due to its content and the opera was meeting with similar
obstructions in Italy some twenty years later. As it went, La
went through a number of textual alterations as Verdi and
Piave tried to satisfy censors that feared the reprisal of royals over their
less than stately depiction. La maledizione wound up retaining its
place in the story; the hunchback also remained and was renamed, as was the
opera, Rigoletto.

Robert Carreras

image_description=Nelson Martinez as Rigoletto and Gina Galati as Gilda [Photo courtesy of Miami Lyric Opera]
product_title=Giuseppe Verdi: Rigoletto
product_by=Rigoletto: Nelson Martinez; Gilda: Gina Galati/Susana Diaz; Duke of Mantua: Aurelio Dominguez/Eduardo Calcano/Luis Riopedre; Sparafucile Diego Baner; Maddalena: Lissette Gimenez; Monterone: Armando Naranjo/Ismael Gonzalez; Borsa: Jesse Vargas; Marullo: Matthew Caines; Giovanna: Ketty Delgado; Ceprano: Ismael Gonzalez/Armando Naranjo; Contessa: Daisy Su; Paggio: Erica Williams; Usciere: Eric Dobkin/Jesus Gonzalez. Conductor: Doris Lang Kosloff. Chorus Master Pablo Hernandez. Costumes: Pamela De Vercelly. Stage: Val Medina. Lighting: Kevin Roman. Sets: Carlos Arditti.
product_id=Above: Nelson Martinez as Rigoletto and Gina Galati as Gilda [Photo courtesy of Miami Lyric Opera]