Tulsa Opera presents one of opera's most beautiful tragedies in Rigoletto, which opened last weekend and continues this Friday, March 5, at 7:30pm and Sunday, March 7, at 2:30pm.
Hailed as the first masterpiece of Giuseppe Verdi's middle career and the first modern opera, Rigoletto stars Robert Hyman, last seen with TO in 2009's Hansel & Gretel, and Talise Trevigne in her Tulsa Opera debut.
Set in 16th century Italy, the opera opens with the Duke of Mantua (Bruce Sledge) boasting to the courtiers of his amorous conquests. The most recent object of his attention is the Countess Ceprano (Regina Grimaldi), and Rigoletto, the hunchback court jester, mocks her husband, the Count (Jeffrey G. Beraun).
Marullo (Joseph Valone), one of the courtiers, announces Rigoletto is suspected of keeping a lover, and Count Ceprano conspires with the courtiers to punish Rigoletto by kidnapping his mistress.
An elderly nobleman, Monterone (Richard Sutliff) arrives to denounce the Duke for seducing his daughter, and when he is arrested and mocked by Rigoletto, bestows a curse on both the duke and the jester, a curse that haunts Rigoletto.
On his way home, Rigoletto encounters Sparafucile (John Ames), an assassin who offers the jester his services. Rigoletto declines and arrives home to his daughter, Gilda, whom the courtiers believe to be his lover and whom he has hidden away from the world.
Although Gilda begs him for information about himself and her mother, Rigoletto refuses and beseeches Giovanna (April Gollivar), the governess, to admit no one into the house. Shortly after Rigoletto leaves, the Duke enters, tossing Giovanna a purse in exchange for admittance.
The Duke tells Gilda he is a poor student named Gaultier Malde and that he is in love with her. He easily wins her affection and departs with her musing his name.
Outside the home, the courtiers have arrived in disguise to kidnap Gilda. When Rigoletto stumbles upon them, they tell him they are playing a prank on Count Ceprano by stealing his wife. Rigoletto, thinking he is playing along, allows himself to be blindfolded, while the courtiers carry away his daughter.
Finally realizing something is wrong, Rigoletto pulls off his blindfold, finds his daughter gone and remembers the curse.
Act Two begins with the Duke returning to the palace, distraught over Gilda's disappearance. When the courtiers return and tell him she is in his bedchambers, he rushes off to her. Soon, Rigoletto enters, looking for Gilda. The courtiers mock him until they realize she isn't his lover but his daughter.
She rushes in to tell Rigoletto of her abduction and seduction as Monterone is taken down to the dungeon, and Rigoletto vows to avenge them both.
Act Three takes place outside of Sparafucile's home, where the Duke has arrived to seduce his sister and cohort, Maddalena (Audrey Babcock). Rigoletto and Gilda watch from outside the ramshackle abode, and Rigoletto instructs Gilda to dress in the men's clothing he's laid out for her and flee to Verona, insisting he'll follow her later.
Gilda, though, returns to Sparafucile's house, dressed as a man, and overhears his plans to assassinate the Duke. Although she knows him to be unfaithful, Gilda is still moved to rescue the Duke.
When she hears the murderer say, if another man comes by their place before midnight, he can die in the Duke's stead, Gilda knocks on the door and is killed, her body placed in a bag.
Sparafucile gives the bag to Rigoletto, who is about to throw it into the river when he hears the Duke's voice, realizing he's alive. He looks inside the bag and, horrified, remembers Monterone's curse.
Like most great operatic tragedies, Rigoletto offers a terrible tale told with extraordinarily beautiful music. Perhaps the entire opera is spent in eager anticipation of Verdi's famous aria, "La donna e mobile," as well as the quartet, "Bella figlia dell'amore," that follows.
And while Hyman is marvelous as Rigoletto, perhaps one of the most difficult baritone roles in the operatic repertoire, Trevigne was the stand-out performer in this show. As Gilda, she is captivating, providing an easy, mesmerizing chemistry with both the Duke and Rigoletto.
Kostis Protopapas, TO's artistic director, conducts the performance, and Kristine McIntyre directs. Single tickets to the opera, sung in the Tulsa Performing Arts Center's Chapman Music Hall, 110 E. Second St., begin at $22 and are available at www.tulsapac.com.
Contemporary artist David Garibaldi brings his "paint flying" performance "Rhythm and Hues" to the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, I-44 South and 193rd East Ave. in Catoosa, Friday, March 5 at 2pm and 6pm in the Grand Lobby.
During his performance, Gribaldi paints six-foot-tall portraits of musicians and political and religious figures in minutes to the beat of music.
The performances will be free and open to the public, and the works created will be left with the casino's collection.
New In Town
American Theatre Company opens The Immigrant, a new musical based on Mark Harelik's play of the same name, Friday, March 5 at 8pm.
The music and lyrics by Steve Alper and Sarah Knapp, The Immigrant tells the story of a Jewish immigrant and his wife who arrive in Hamilton, Texas, and are welcomed into the home of a couple there.
The cast includes John Knippers, Janet Rutland, Anna Neal and D'Mitri Sobol. Robert Walters directs, and Jeremy Stevens is the musical director.
The musical plays this weekend and next in the John H. Williams Theatre of the Tulsa PAC, with evening shows at 8pm and matinees at 2pm. Ticket prices range from $24 to $30 and are available at the PAC's Web site.
Spotlight on Alice
Tulsa Spotlight Theatre, 1381 Riverside Drive, continues its production of Alice in Wonderland March 5-13, with evening performances at 7pm and matinees at 2pm.
The production is directed by Joshua Branson Barker and Mindy Barker. Tickets are available by calling 587-5030.
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