Every component of Jay Lesenger’s production of Verdi’s Rigoletto for Palm Beach Opera is outstanding; scenery and costumes are attractive and effective; and lighting and projections bring the drama vividly to life.
Michael Chiold’s warm and powerful voice and evocative acting made Rigoletto a believable character, whether mocking Ceprano and Monterone and when he himself is treated cruelly and suffers unimaginable grief. Rigoletto’s plea for the return of his abducted daughter, Gilda, Chioldi projected a gamut of emotions, from rage to sorrow, reduced to begging for pity. His outcry over Gilda’s lifeless body in the final moments was delivered with great emotional impact.
Alexey Tatarintsev brought a bright and airy tenor to the Duke, establishing his womanizing, proclaiming it again in Act Three in ‘La donna è mobile’ and dashing off top notes with ease. Tatarintsev sensitively partnered with Andrea Carroll’s Gilda in their love-duet; and Carroll gave a radiant portrayal of Gilda, her ardent rendition of ‘Cara nome’ sung in part while lying on her back.
Štefan Kocán was a superb Sparafucile, a role he has performed at the Metropolitan Opera. His voice resonated powerfully – most notably in an incredible low F that continued to sound from the wings after his Act One exit. Audrey Babcock was an attractive Maddalena, entwining herself with the Duke as they joined with Rigoletto and Gilda in the exquisitely sung ‘Bella figlia dell’amore’, and then poignant in her plea for Sparafucile to spare the Duke’s life. The remainder of the cast also performed admirably.
Antonello Allemandi conducted a lively and well-played reading of the score while maintaining good communication and balance with the singers; during the Prelude Lesenger presented a freeze-frame depicting the tragic ending, and Rigoletto’s encounters with Sparafucile were dark and ominous. The kidnapping of Gilda was carried off with striking realism, and the amorous activities of the Duke and Maddalena were a cynosure in the Act Three Quartet. Michael Baumgarten’s lighting and projections set the shifting moods – a moonlit, starry night creating a romantic aura, and eerie clouds and flashing lightning conveying the storm from which Gilda enters Sparafucile’s house.