The Sarasota Opera begins a new season with a triumphant production of Rigoletto.
By Kay Kipling
By now the euphoria of the Sarasota Opera’s grand re-opening night gala, after months of renovation on the building, has started to wear off a little (although those entering the Opera House for performances will probably continue to be dazzled by the theater’s new look for some time to come). It was a night to remember, though, not only for its historic, architectural and social significance, but for the performance of Verdi’s Rigoletto that led off the opera season.
The oft-told story of the hunchbacked jester (Michael Corvino), his innocent and ultimately traduced young daughter (Erica Strauss), the faithless duke with whom she falls in love (Rafael Davila), and the curse from another heartbroken father (Jonathan Carle) that Rigoletto believes dooms him and his child was revealed in this production (conducted by artistic director Victor DeRenzi and staged by Stephanie Sundine) to be as timely as ever. In other words, we still read stories of women betrayed, vengeance gone horribly wrong and immoral leaders who cause others to suffer for their deeds all the time, don’t we?
The production, with a set by David P. Gordon, costumes by Howard Tsvi Kaplan and impressive lighting and special effects by Ken Yunker, looks alternately sumptuous and forbidding, often reminding the viewer of paintings of the period in which the story takes place. It felt a little slow at first, as we watched the people of the duke’s court gracefully perform a dance while waiting for the real action to begin. But there was ample drama to come, especially when the assassin Sparafucile (Jeffrey Tucker) enters the scene.
Strauss and Davila fare particularly well vocally on their solos and duets, the melodies of several (such as La donna è mobile and Caro nome) immediately familiar even to those who are not regular opera goers. Corvino is less consistent, although he comes through when it counts and his acting is strong all along, ranging from his early bitter jokes to his later stricken suffering.
Only a few performances of Rigoletto remain (through April 13); for tickets call 366-8450 or visit sarasotaopera.org.