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Florentine’s Overly Sparse ‘Rigoletto’

Classical Review

May. 25, 2010
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A bare stage is an odd and misguided trend at Florentine Opera. There was almost nothing to see in a Tosca production earlier in the season. Last weekend Rigoletto was more of the same. The audience saw a back gray wall made of large squares (some missing), a stairway, a platform and vast space that became a blank canvas for a lighting design, costumes and direction. None were distinguished enough to warrant such emphasis.

Minimalist opera productions require more ingenuity than the Florentine’s to be stylish. It’s as if the director, William Florescu, and scenery and lighting designer, Noele Stollmack, wanted to give Rigoletto, set in sixteenth century Mantua, a contemporary spin, but were unwilling to commit to anything specific. 

Soprano Georgia Jarman as Gilda, Rigoletto’s doomed daughter, performed with heartfelt passion, in short supply in this production. Her vocal color and Italian phrasing and style were constantly satisfying. She sang with ebullient ease; only the descending scale trills in her aria “Caro nome” seemed a bit labored. That’s quibbling, though. Jarman was first rate.

I saw the Saturday evening performance, with Peter Castaldi as Rigoletto (Luis Ledesma sang the role on Friday and Sunday.) A dull and unformed actor, he lacked the essential quality of this unlucky hunchback court jester: he was not simpatico. His relationship with Gilda was emotionally out of balance; Jarman was Italian heat to Castaldi’s arctic chill. His singing was inconsistent, at times running out of steam. 

Tenor Arturo Chacon-Cruz, as the hedonistic Duke of Mantua, has an intense sound. At his best, when his voice is free, he sings with exciting Italianate resonance. Generally, the higher he sings the better he is. But too often his voice has obvious tension. Chacon-Cruz is undeveloped as a true bel canto singer or as an actor on the opera stage.

There was good singing in supporting roles: Kelly Anderson as Monterone, Stephen Morscheck as Sparafucile, and Audrey Babcock as Maddalena. Conductor Joseph Rescigno led a fairly brisk interpretation of the score. As always at Florentine, the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra in the pit elevated the performance.


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