Casting Changes for SF Opera's Rigoletto
SF Opera's Rigoletto (Vratogna/Shagimuratova/Chacon)

SF Opera's Opening Night Rigoletto

06-Rigoletto* Notes * 
The 90th season of San Francisco Opera got off to a fine start last night with Rigoletto, at least once opening night formalities were out of the way. Though not exactly precise, the orchestra bustled with enthusiasm, and Maestro Nicola Luisotti kept the music moving. The chorus sang with characteristic vigor.

This revival is the fourth outing of the de Chirico-inspired production in fifteen years. Michael Yeargan's set design is clean and quiet, other than the rather garish color palette. The scene changes are smooth, and the two pauses (between the first two scenes and the last two acts) did not take long.

The array of lovely voices in this opera is striking. The six current and former Adlers sang seven of the smaller roles and acquitted themselves well. It is especially pleasing that mezzo-sopranos Laura Krumm (Countess Ceprano and A Page), Renée Rapier (Giovanna), and Kendall Gladen (Maddalena) all sound so distinct from one another.

Likewise, bass Robert Pomakov made for a Monterone that could not be confused with the baritone of the title role. Andrea Silvestrelli is a threatening Sparafucile. His voice has beautiful resonances even in his lowest notes.

Francesco Demuro made a strong effort as the Duke of Mantua, but came up a bit short. His bright voice has an edge of hysteria to it, lending him an unmanly air. He gave a respectable rendition of "La donna è mobile" but somehow did not engage the audience.

Aleksandra Kurzak's Gilda is attractive, her intonation is exact, and she never grates on the ear. On the other hand, her dark sound seems too sensual for the naive daughter of Rigoletto. Željko Lučić (pictured above in Act I Scene 2, photograph by Cory Weaver) impressed in the title role. His sound has volume and richness. The tenderness of Act I Scene 2 contrasted nicely with the despair of the last scene.

* Tattling * 
The opera started even later normal for opening night. The General Director even made an announcement ten minutes after the hour that the proceedings would begin in another five minutes. John Gunn and George Hume welcomed the audience, made acknowledgements to various donors, let us know we were to be photographed from the stage in honor of the 90th season, and also informed us that there would be champagne for all after the performance. After several photographs were taken, Luisotti lead the orchestra and the audience in the National Anthem, so the performance itself began nearly thirty minutes late.