Review: ‘Rigoletto’ set revenge and lust to gorgeous music

By JACI WEBB Of The Gazette Staff | Posted: Saturday, October 8, 2011 11:20 pm

Betrayal, revenge, lust — it all comes together in Act III of Rimrock Opera Company’s “Rigoletto.”

Giuseppe Verdi’s beautiful music paired with heartbreaking lyrics by a jilted woman, a vengeful father and a philandering duke made for a memorable production Saturday night at the Alberta Bair Theater.

Two unusual couples — Gilda (Lisa Lombardy) and her father, Rigoletto (Robert Aaron Taylor), and the Duke of Mantua (Jeff Kitto) and Maddalena (Michelle Berger) — sing of passions unrealized. Even without translation of the Italian opera, you get the idea that the duke is flattering Maddalena with more of his lies and that Rigoletto is seething with bitterness. Even sadder, the women are both pining for the despicable duke.

Verdi’s melodies are so captivating, members of the audience were humming and whistling them on the way out of the theater Saturday night. There was much applause for the hometown performers, including Bozeman’s Kitto, whose youthful presence and warm tone were perfect for his jaunty and familiar aria in Act III.

Berger, a Billings native, performed her role as the feisty but smitten Maddalena with cheek and polish. But it was Billings soprano Lombardy who brought down the house as the foolish maiden in love, almost tripping over herself as she skips and rolls around the stage floor, while reaching those glass-shattering high C’s with ease and grace.

Taylor, a Tennessee native who has become a familiar face with Rimrock Opera Company, was believable in the challenging role of the deformed, bitter jester who even calls himself a buffoon. In one of the most tragic stories in opera, Rigoletto is killing himself with a lifetime of bitterness, bolstered only by the hope of revenge. He lives with a curse thrown at him by a man Rigoletto suggests be sent to prison or beheaded because he rises to protect his daughter’s honor. Ironically, Rigoletto is soon forced into a similar situation.

The original title of the work was “The Curse,” but that proved too controversial during Verdi’s time. Yet it is still the driving force in the opera. Directed by Matthew Haney with musical direction by Andy Anderson, “Rigoletto” continues its run with a 3 p.m. performance Sunday at the ABT. For tickets, call the ABT at 256-6052.