Verdi’s Rigoletto, a searing exploration of patriarchy, power, and commerce, returns to the Canadian Opera Company this winter with a production from acclaimed American director Christopher Alden. A tragedy on a Shakespearean scale, the opera is brought to life by an all-star cast and conducted by pre-eminent American maestro Stephen Lord. Ten performances take place at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts on January 20, 27, February 1, 4, 6, 9, 11, 17, 21, and 23, 2018.
One of the world’s most popular operas, Rigoletto’s subject matter was considered highly controversial at the time of its composition in 1851. Verdi and his librettist, Francesco Maria Piave, faced opposition from state censors for the opera’s depiction of an immoral and abusive nobleman. The COC’s production, set during the height of the Victorian era, unearths that culture of toxic masculinity and permissive patriarchy, in which men possess enormous wealth and influence while keeping women subservient and nearly powerless.
Internationally renowned Canadian designer Michael Levine illustrates the wealth, privilege and sensuality of the 19th-century court with luxurious and handsomely designed set and costumes, which earned bursts of applause when the production premiered in 2011. The darkly atmospheric lighting is by Duane Schuler.
The star-studded cast is led by commanding English baritone Roland Wood in the title role. He brings his “rich and authoritative sound, his jovial tone…hiding a stormier one that comes to the fore with volcanic intensity” (BroadwayWorld.com) back to the COC after an acclaimed debut in 2014’s A Masked Ball. He is joined by American soprano Anna Christy, “nimble of voice, body and spirit” (New York Times), as Rigoletto’s doomed daughter, Gilda.
Christy reunites with American tenor Stephen Costello, who “has the kind of voice that sets the audience—even at a dress rehearsal—atwitter” (Wall Street Journal), after their critically acclaimed performance as the doomed star-crossed lovers in the COC’s 2013 production of Lucia di Lammermoor. Costello shares the role of the Duke of Mantua with American tenor Joshua Guerrero in his Canadian debut. Praised for his “heroic, beautiful sound” (Washington Post), he sings the role on February 11, 17 and 23.
Georgian bass Goderdzi Janelidze makes his Canadian debut as the assassin Sparafucile; Canadian mezzo-soprano Carolyn Sproule makes her COC debut as Sparafucile’s sister Maddalena; Canadian bass Robert Pomakov is Count Monterone; Canadian mezzo-soprano Megan Latham is Gilda’s nurse, Giovanna; and Canadian tenor John Kriter reprises his role of Borsa from the COC’s 2011 presentation.
Recent graduates and current members of the COC Ensemble Studio round out the cast: bass-baritone Neil Craighead and soprano Lauren Eberwein are the Count and Countess Ceprano, respectively; baritone Samuel Chan is the Usher; and mezzo-soprano Simone McIntosh is the Page.
All performances of Rigoletto feature the COC Orchestra and Chorus. This is a co-production with English National Opera and was last performed in 2011. Verdi’s Rigoletto is sung in Italian and presented by the COC with English SURTITLES™.
Single tickets for Rigoletto range from $35 – $225 and box seats, when available, are $350. Tickets are now on sale, available online at coc.ca, by calling 416-363-8231, or in person at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts Box Office (145 Queen St. W.). For more information on specially priced tickets available to young people under the age of 15, standing room, Opera Under 30 presented by TD Bank Group, student groups and rush seating, visit coc.ca.
If you are needing a respite from the wintery chill this February, pick up tickets to the Canadian Opera Company’s ‘Rigoletto’ from Verdi (January 20, 27, February 1, 4, 6, 9, 11, 17, 21, and 23, 2018). Not only will you be swooning along to the epic score but the artists and staging will provide you with next level aahhh’s.
Every note tells a story during ‘Rigoletto’. Set in the Renaissance, it deals with the inequalities of the social structure in Hugo’s and Verdi’s own time. Written in a heightened melodramatic mode, it is pointedly accusatory regarding the abuses of monarchy. It is a nightmare about an all-powerful and irresponsible ruler.
The detail echoing in the tragedy as extolled by English baritone Roland Wood will make your knees tremble in your seat. His emotional arch and painful moments alongside Anna Christy will prompt you to question and reflect on not only the happenings on stage but what is happening in the media today during the performance.
As Director, Christopher Alden states, “The title role of Rigoletto retains much of the bile and acid humour of the jester in Hugo’s play, somewhat humanized by Verdi. The anti-hero is dark and brooding, locked into his own obsessions and repressed fantasies. In public life, as part of the nasty and competitive little world of the Duke’s court, he has climbed to the top of the ladder of power by dint of his malicious wit. Mocked by others because of his physical deformity, he has achieved success as a brilliant mocker. In his private life, Rigoletto reveals a positively schizophrenic new personality, sweetly sentimental in his desire to keep his daughter pure and uncorrupted by the outside world.”
Who needs a mid week afternoon soap opera when melodrama meets formality in “Rigoletto”? Christy and tenor, Stephen Costello collide with so much force and unbridled drama – their exchange will satiate you far more than any online gossip blog. Their sense of energy and resolution could perhaps inspire a spark in your own personal romantic love stories.
Alden says, “Rigoletto is a genius of denial. His obsession with Monterone’s curse as the source of his misfortune is an easy way out of facing up to his own responsibility as the master of his fate. He is a paradigm of the patriarchal 19th-century male whose power is built on the subjugation of women, disenfranchised and locked safely away at home, while he goes to work in the newly industrialized, dog-eat-dog Darwinian jungle. Gilda is an image of Rigoletto’s soul, kept pure and uncorrupted, far from the soulless marketplace. Rigoletto’s mistake is in thinking he can neatly divide himself into these two separate compartments. When the barriers between them come crashing down, Rigoletto unwittingly kills the thing he loves.”
The landscape of the production is rich and luxurious. Wooden panelling, gorgeous soft furnishings, dresses that are swung about like chandeliers and men’s smoking jackets that have never seen the outside of a smoky home. The sheer decadence could prompt you to have a hankering to sleep in one of the beautifully upholstered settees on stage within the first 5 minutes of the performance.
Watching the men in “the gaming room,” where they retire after dinner to smoke and drink, read their papers, and play games of power, control, and domination was wonderful mix of decadence and drole. The room represents both sides of Rigoletto’s life, the workplace and the home. The Duke, a personification of unbounded libido, rules there. The trump card he holds over the men of his court is that at any moment, in full view and fully within his feudal rights, he could seduce their women and humiliate them in the process.
“Rigoletto” is a wonderful operatic production to get lost in over the winter. I encourage you to feel out the performances by Canadian Opera Company artists that will allow you to warm up your extremities and perhaps reflect on 2018’s socio-economic climate with murmurs of wrongful misdoings with a gentle reminder that with new years, bring new beginnings.