“Rigoletto,” Rimrock Opera’s fall selection, is based on a play by Victor Hugo entitled “Le Roi s’amuse,” or “The king amuses himself.” More than one Billings opera-goer found the tale over-melodramatic, but composer Verdi had a hard time getting his now beloved opera approved for production.
The story was banned all over Europe for portraying a monarch as vicious and depraved just when the Bourbons, the Kaiser, and Queen Victoria all sat firmed on their thrones. Le Roi had to be demoted to a duke, and a duke from a defunct Italian family, at that.
But opera isn’t ultimately about the story. It’s about the sound, those amazing human voices thrilling the audience with exciting cadenzas and incredible control. And the Rimrock Opera’s stars did not disappoint. Lisa Lombardy sang Gilda, Rigoletto’s ill-fated daughter. Her “Cara Nome,” “Dearest Name,” pushed every vocal device to the edge without overdoing it. Her beloved, the licentious Duke of Mantua, played by Jeffrey Grant Kitto, had the good fortune to sing one of opera’s most famous arias, “La donna e mobile.” Again, a stellar performance.
But it was Robert Aaron Taylor as Rigoletto, the hunchbacked court jester, who created a solid foundation for the entire performance. Mr. Taylor showed us right from the beginning scene that Rigoletto’s own bitterness, superstitions, and Italian love of the vendetta would lead to tragedy in the classic sense. Yet I found myself silently saying to him, don’t do it, don’t do it! He did.
The costumes and sets, yet again financed by Rimrock Opera’s angel, Henrietta Johnstone, added the pageantry that makes opera a spectacle. Grazie, dear lady.
To all the rest of the cast, bravissimo!
Rimrock Opera’s next work is “The Crucible” by Robert Ward, an American opera about the Salem Witch trials of 1692, and winner of the 1962 Pulitzer Prize for music. Opening night is Saturday, April 28th, 2012 at 7:30 p.m.