Tag Archives: Giuseppe Verdi
When arriving for her interview a few weeks ago on an unusually rainy day in Los Angeles, mezzo-soprano Ginger Costa-Jackson is all smiles. She’s just happy to be in the city, regardless of the weather.
“The apartment that I’m staying at has a rooftop and I can see the Hollywood sign,” said Costa-Jackson. “On my days off, I’ve been laying out and tanning, but I guess not today.”
On May 12, LA Opera saw the return of Mark Lamos’ lavish production of Giuseppe Verdi’s Rigoletto. KXLU has described it as “… a mesmerizing, powerfully sung and acted Rigoletto,” while Broadway World writes that Juan Jesus Rodriguez in the title role “is thunder itself for all three acts. In both singing and acting, he masterfully plays all the agonizing transitions of the character …”
The critics may love this timeless Verdi classic, but what does the public think? Read below for audience reactions to LA Opera’s Rigoletto!
Welcome to the LA Opera Podcast — the place for you to learn all about our productions. On this episode, we’re focusing on Giuseppe Verdi’s timeless opera Rigoletto. Listen below to learn about the plot and the music, and hear from some of our principal cast members, including Lisette Oropesa, Juan Jesús Rodríguez and Arturo Chacón-Cruz, who go into detail about their characters.
Matthew Aucoin, LA Opera’s Artist in Residence, is the conductor of Rigoletto.
Rigoletto is a thunderbolt, a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence—even for Verdi. It’s so familiar to opera audiences, however, that we might forget what an explosive, revolutionary piece it is, much the same way that overexposure to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony has the tendency to blind us to that piece’s strangeness and messiness. Rigoletto crosses a threshold in operatic history; it contains a kind of quantum leap. It is here that Verdi, whose music had so far wrestled with two seemingly contradictory impulses—his gift for glorious, long-spun melodies in the mold of the bel canto tradition and a keen dramatic instinct that gave his music a rough-edged, distinctly un-bel canto quality—finally united these two tendencies.
Giuseppe Verdi’s Rigoletto has been a staple in the standard operatic repertoire since its 1851 premiere, but its road to the stage was anything but smooth. Before you head to LA Opera’s production of Rigoletto on May 12, here are five things you may not already know about Verdi’s artistic process in writing this tour de force!
LA Opera is no stranger to the impassioned operas of Giuseppe Verdi. In the last six seasons alone, the company has staged five operas written by the Italian composer, from popular favorites including La Traviata, Falstaff and Macbeth, to lesser-known works like The Two Foscari and Nabucco.
Another classic – Rigoletto – returns to the stage on May 12. Here are five things you may not know about LA Opera’s upcoming production of Rigoletto!
Giuseppe Verdi regarded Nabucco, his third work to reach the stage, as the catalyst that set the rest of his career in motion.
“Be guided by this, there are three roles in this opera and three roles only: Lady Macbeth, Macbeth and the chorus of the Witches.”—Giuseppe Verdi
In 1847, Giuseppe Verdi stood the world of Italian opera on its head when he wrote his tenth opera in seven years. (He would later refer to that grueling period as his “years in the galley.”) This was no routine work. In writing Macbeth, he made a major leap into the future—his future, Italian opera’s future, our future. It would take half a century for the logical consequence of Macbeth to be fully drawn, and even then it would take another 50 or 60 years before its significance was recognized.
With this opera, Verdi began the long process of dismantling the forms he inherited from Rossini and the bel canto period. In so doing, he irrevocably transformed Italian opera. Dramatic coherence became dominant. It is in Macbeth that he stipulates, with an insistence and virulence beyond what he had demonstrated in the past, what the singers must do to serve the drama. He no longer accepts the status quo, neither in the comportment of the singers, who must now act with their voices as well as their bodies, nor in the overall form of the music. Verdi chooses musical forms that fit the dramatic situation. The opera is not a series of formulaic scenes designed to showcase the vocal prowess of the performers, but a concentrated distillation of the dramatic essence. As he instructed baritone Felice Varesi, his first Macbeth: “I will not cease to recommend that you study the dramatic situations and the words: the music will follow on its own.”
In 1986, LA Opera’s inaugural season opened with Giuseppe Verdi’s Otello, starring Plácido Domingo. Of the opera, director Götz Friedrich said, “The theme [of Otello] is eternal and current: The Soldier, shoved into peacetime, proves to be defenseless and helpless in the face of the attacks of everyday life, the persecutions of injured vanity. In ancient tragedy, the heroes fell because of the gods. With Shakespeare and Verdi, it is the envy of men which destroys the outsider.” This would become one of the company’s iconic productions.
Since its successful premiere in 1887, Otello has catapulted audiences to the Shakespeare of Verdi. This is a world where all the essentials of storytelling meet the heightened emotions of an operatic score. Take, for example, the below duet between Otello (Domingo) and Iago (Sherrill Milnes), “Si, pel ciel.”
“Everyone cried out at the idea of putting a hunchback on the stage; well, there you are. I was very happy to write Rigoletto…and it is my best opera.” – Giuseppe Verdi, July 26, 1852
Giuseppe Verdi’s Rigoletto is Victor Hugo’s play Le roi s’amuse on steroids. Verdi’s music energizes the story’s tragic drama, a father-daughter tale that ends unhappily. In the opera, the title character is a court jester to the womanizing Duke of Mantua, who openly mocks his social superiors in order to please the Duke. One day, he mocks the wrong man – the Count Monterone, whose daughter has been seduced and discarded by the Duke. The Count warns him never to make light of a father’s grief, a threat which haunts Rigoletto, as he is father to the beautiful Gilda, whom he keeps secluded from eyes of lecherous men like the Duke. When Gilda falls in love with the Duke, Rigoletto decides to have him murdered, but his plans go awry and Gilda ends up dying as a result.
Rigoletto’s most famous aria is the Duke’s Act IV show of callousness in the form of “La donna e mobile” (women are fickle), an unforgettable tune that returns—to heart wrenching effect—at the very end of the opera. The main point of the aria? Women are flighty and untrue, but men still need their love. (Warning: This may change your perspective on your favorite pasta commercial.)
Plácido Domingo as Rigoletto and Vittorio Grigolo as The Duke