Toledo Opera opens with passionate ‘Rigoletto’Written by Brandi Barhite | Associate Editor | email@example.com
Toledo Opera will open its 50th season with “Rigoletto,” described by lyrical Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi as “the best subject that I’ve ever set to music.”
The show will premiere on Nov. 8 and 14 at 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 16 at 2 pm at The Valentine Theatre.
“It is extraordinarily exciting and completely relevant to today’s audiences,” said soprano Rachel Watkins, who plays Gilda, the female lead role.
The story is based on Victor Hugo’s play, “Le Roi s’amuse,” which premiered in Paris in 1832.
It is filled with music, drama, revenge and brutality.
When Verdi wrote “Rigoletto” at the age of 38, he was the most popular opera composer in the world. Watkins compared it to the popularity of today’s “The Da Vinci Code.”
Verdi was especially intrigued by the character of Triboulet, the jester whom Verdi renamed Rigoletto. Rigoletto attempts to shield his daughter, Gilda, from the evil and hostile world with which he is so familiar, a world that he experiences daily at the court of the Duke of Mantua. He fears Gilda may be taken advantage of by the lecherous Duke and his courtiers.
This is a perfect opera for first-timers because Verdi was different than most composers, according to bass Randall Jakobsh, who plays Sparafucile. Verdi set a play to music, which makes the plot easier for audience members to follow, Jakobsh said. Also helpful is that “Rigoletto” will be sung in Italian with English translations projected above the stage.
Jakobsh said Rigoletto pays Sparafucile to murder the Duke, but Sparafucile decides to murder the next person who comes in the door of the inn, which turns out to be Gilda.
“I absolutely love this role,”
Watkins said. “I think I didn’t
understand her at first. I didn’t understand that kind of love. It’s hard to understand love to die for.”
Watkins said Gilda ends up falling in love with the Duke and returns to warn him. She overhears a conversation about the plan to kill her father, and the tragic plot unfolds.
“I think there are times when it feels glamorous,” Watkins said of her career as an opera singer. “There are moments in every show where you get to shine.”
Watkins has sung the role of Gilda two other times. Unlike a musical, “in an opera we are like individual contractors called in from all over the world to rehearse,” she said.
Last season, Watkins debuted with Opera Tampa as Juliette in “Romeo et Juliette.” Other recent performances include Adina in “L’elisir d’amore,” Violetta in “La traviata” and the Queen of the Night in “The Magic Flute” with Opernhaus Zürich.
Jakobsh, from British Columbia, has established an international reputation with major opera companies in Europe, South America, Canada and the United States. He recently made his Salzburg debut as Pharnaces in “König Kandaules” by Alexander Zemlinsky, a role he reprised at Opéra Nancy and Teatro Colon de Buenes Aires.
Performing the role of Rigoletto is baritone Jason Stearns, making his Toledo Opera debut. Tenor Yoonsoo Shin will bring to life the role of the libertine Duke of Mantua.
Grammy award-winning conductor Thomas Conlin will conduct the Toledo Symphony Orchestra, and internationally renowned stage director Linda Brosvky will direct the production, with sets by designed by New Orleans Opera.
Single ticket prices begin at $25 and may be purchased online at the Web site www.toledoopera.org, or by phone at (419) 255-7464.
Discount tickets are available for students, seniors and groups of 10 or more.