Kentucky Opera opens this year with a work you know well and probably love, even if you don’t realize it. Rocko Jerome brings early insights into the upcoming production of Verdi’s Rigoletto.
The renowned Kentucky Opera begins its 2019 program with a production of Giuseppe Verdi’s Rigoletto, a timeless masterpiece designed to excite opera newbies and aficionados alike. It’s a tale of betrayal and intrigue centered around Rigoletto, a hunchbacked court jester with a sharp wit. He’s in the employ of a womanizing Duke who has eyes for Rigoletto’s daughter, Gilda. A conspiracy brings about a curse that fulfills itself in unexpected ways through a series of twists and turns that make Game of Thrones look like the Waltons, with some of the most beloved and recognizable opera music that you’ve ever heard along the way. In particular, the instantly recognizable and eminently hummable aria La donna è mobile, a tune that has most likely long ago bonded itself to your eternal aural memory via a lifetime of hearing it in movies, TV shows, cartoons, and commercials. So instantly recognizable is the work that, in a story that has become legend, Verdi limited its rehearsals to just a few late nights ahead of the initial premiere and swore his performers to secrecy, warning them to not even whistle the infectious notes anywhere within earshot of the public.
“It’s the first melody that most people think of when they think of opera, perhaps because it’s been in every pasta commercial known to man,” quips Stage Director Kathleen Belcher. New to Louisville, Kathleen is vastly experienced and well regarded, having directed a stellar series of operas across the country. While many modern productions of Rigoletto have recast the original 16th-century setting, Kathleen has instead opted to focus in on the classic and originally intended time period. She brings a sharp vision to her work, emphasizing its universal and vastly accessible tones. The main elements remain truly timeless, even if the plot hinges on a superstitious belief in curses that works best in that long-ago setting. “Rigoletto is a dramatic story that everybody can relate to,” she says. “It features a corrupt court, and we can certainly see ourselves in that mirror. The bully wins and doesn’t have to pay for his actions. From childhood through our entire lives, we can see how little certain things have changed.”
The cast brings an absolute embarrassment of riches. Elizabethtown native and world-renowned baritone Anthony Clark Evans performs as the titular Rigoletto. John Irvin brings his golden tones to the role of the Duke of Mantua, a role previously played by the master, Luciano Pavarotti. Of particular note is the magnetic rising star Mané Galoyan, who is simply electrifying as Gilda. “She brings such a sense of force and purpose to the role,” says Kathleen. “Looking back in 10 years, you will be able to say that you saw the great Mané Galoyan in an early role.” <
IF YOU GO
Kentucky Opera’s presentation of Rigoletto will be performed on Friday, February 15 at 8:00pm and Sunday, February 17 at 2:00pm at the Kentucky Center. Tickets are available now. Please visit www.kentuckycenter.org for more information.