Verdi | Rigoletto


New BLO production. Sung in Italian with projected English translation.

March 14-23, 2014

New BLO production. Sung in Italian with projected English translation.
March 14, 16m, 19, 21, 23m, 2014 at the Citi Performing Arts CenterSM Shubert Theatre.
Evening performances at 7:30pm. Matinees (m) at 3pm.
(Two hours and thirty minutes, including intermission.)

The Duke of Mantua is always in pursuit of his next romantic conquest. His jester Rigoletto is obsessed with protecting his innocent daughter Gilda from the corruption which has become a way of life in the Duke’s court. Rigoletto can lock his daughter away, but he cannot contain the passion stirring in her young heart. When a betrayed husband places a curse on the Duke and Rigoletto, a thirst for revenge leads to tragic results.

This Verdi favorite and new production is set in a rich and decadent Renaissance Italy and features some of opera’s most famous arias including “La Donna e Mobile” and “Caro Nome.” Bruce Sledge, Morris Robinson, Nadine Sierra star with Michael Mayes singing the title role.

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Creative Team
Conductor Christopher Franklin*
Stage Director Tomer Zvulun*
Set Designer John Conklin
Costume Designer Victoria Tzykun*
Lighting Designer Robert Wierzel
Fight Directors Ted Hewlett and Robert Najarian
Projected English Titles John Conklin
Wigs and Makeup Designer Jason Allen

Cast (in order of appearance)
The Duke of Mantua Bruce Sledge*
Borsa Omar Najmi#
Countess Ceprano Chelsea Basler#
Rigoletto Michael Mayes*
Marullo David Kravitz
Count Ceprano Liam Moran#
Count Monterone David Cushing^
Sparafucile Morris Robinson
Gilda Nadine Sierra
Giovanna Samantha Weppelmann*
The Duchess of Mantua Vanessa Schukis
Usher Ron Williams
Maddalena Audrey Babcock*

* BLO debut
#BLO Emerging Artist 
^BLO Emerging Artist Alumnus

Orchestra Piccolo
First Violins Ann Bobo
Sandra Kott Concertmaster
Colin Davis Oboe
Natalie Favaloro Nancy Dimock Principal
Cynthia Cummings Mary Cicconetti
Gerald Mordis
Peter Hanly Clarinet
Stacey Alden Jan Halloran Principal
Lena Wong Steven Jackson
Roksana Sudol
Second Violins Ronald Haroutunian Acting Principal
Heidi Braun-Hill Acting Principal
Robert Curtis French Horn
Tera Gorsett Kevin Owen Principal
Rohan Gregory Dirk Hillyer
Olga Kouznetsova Whitacre Hill
Annegret Klaua Iris Rosenstein
Maynard Goldman
Violas Jesse Levine Acting Principal
David Feltner Acting Principal
Don Krishnaswami Trombone
Joan Ellersick John Faieta Acting Principal
Stephen Dyball Peter Cirelli
Russell Wilson Donald Robinson
Cello Cimbasso
Loewi Lin Principal Donald Rankin Principal
Jan Pfeiffer-Rios
Rafael Popper-Keizer Timpani
Steven Laven Robert Schulz Acting Principal
Bass Percussion
Robert Lynam Principal John Tanzer Acting Principal
Barry Boettger Nicholas Tolle
Kevin Green
Linda Toote Acting Principal
Ann Bobo

Tenor Bass
Mario Arevalo Jeremy Collier
Ethan Bremner Fred Furnari
Brendan Buckley Taylor Horner
Craig Hanson Andy Papas
Frank Levar Paul Soper
Chris Maher David Wadden
Thomas Oesterling John Whittlesey
Fred VanNess Ron Williams
Clara Ulken
with Gina DeFreitas

Verdi ran into serious problems with the powerful censorship office when he was writing Rigoletto, based on a play by Victor Hugo, set in the licentious court of the French King Françoise I. He and his librettist, Piave, were forced to move this boldly dramatic story of a promiscuous monarch with its attendant aspects of seditious intrigues, rape, and murder from Paris to the physically smaller-scale, walled, Renaissance Italian city-state of Mantua ruled by an all powerful Duke. But perhaps, in the end, this enforced change works to the advantage of the piece. Rather than a great European capital, the world is now more isolated, more concentrated, more claustrophobic – a terrible kind of intimate crucible where the three central characters are inescapably forced together to confront and endure their desperately conflicting and ultimately fatal passions.

Part 1: The Court

Surrounded by a group of idle and sycophantic courtiers, The Duke confides to his henchman Borsa the details of his latest furtive amorous adventures – he has been following a young woman every Sunday as she leaves church. But he is soon distracted by the presence of the Countess Ceprano who he brazenly attempts to seduce in front of her furious husband egged on by his hunch- back favorite the jester Rigoletto. Rigoletto’s witty brutality, cruel tongue and closeness to the Duke have earned him the hatred of the rest of the court and they are maliciously delighted with the unexpected news that he has a mistress “Has the hunchback become a Cupid?” Together with Ceprano they plot revenge on their nemesis that night. Now yet another victim of the Dukes predatory hedonism is revealed – the daughter of an older courtier Monterone has been violated and abandoned. He arrives to seek retribution but he is savagely taunted by Rigoletto acting as the Duke’s spokesman. Furious Monterone turns on them both with a violent curse  – ” …and you, vile serpent who mock a father’s grief, my curse be upon you.” The Duke shrugs it off but Rigoletto is terrified and seems shaken to the depths of his being.

On his way home Rigoletto obsessively turns the curse over in his mind. He is accosted by Sparafucile an assassin-for-hire who offers Rigoletto his professional services. Rigoletto (after finding out the details) turns him down. As Sparafucile disappears into the shadows Rigoletto muses darkly – “We are alike. I wound with my tongue; he kills with his dagger.” In the ecstatic greeting of his daughter Gilda, Rigoletto’s panicked reaction to the curse is explained. His motherless child means everything to him – a figure of innocence and purity amidst the decadence and self disgust of his existence at court. He protects her at any cost – virtually imprisoning her (except for the Sunday church visit) under the eye of the housekeeper Giovanna. But the Duke disguised as a student has breached the walls and, as Rigoletto departs, sneaks into the house to see Gilda. Their passionate meeting is cut short by a nervous Giovanna who has heard a noise outside. The Duke leaves Gilda alone to rapturously muse in his absence on the very name of her lover. The courtiers arrive masked to execute their revenge on Rigoletto by abducting his mistress but when he arrives back unexpectedly they enlist him in their scheme convincing him that they here to kidnap the Countess Ceprano. He is completely duped and only after his daughter has been carried off does he realize what has happened. The despairing Rigoletto rushes into the empty house, crying out “La maladizione”.

Part 2: The Killing Ground

The Duke had returned to Gilda’s house but found it deserted. Back at the court, in a moment of unaccustomed gentleness he reflects on her mysterious disappearance and   her love – “She so pure, before whose innocent gaze, I often feel myself  overcome with virtue”. When the courtiers with malicious glee tell him of their successful capture of Rigoletto’s mistress he joyfully realizes what has really happened and rushes off  – “She shall know at last who loves her and who I really am” Rigoletto distraught and grief stricken also realizes what has occurred and, at first savagely, and then racked with bitter and pathetic grief begs the men (shocked to discover the truth) to restore his daughter . Alone with her father, Gilda admits both her love and her shame and dishonor. The darkly despairing words of Monterone as he is led to execution that his curse has been in vain causes Rigoletto to cry out “No,old man, you’re wrong, you shall be avenged.”  Gilda desperate begs for mercy for the Duke – “he betrayed me but I love him, O God” but Rigoletto vows   punishing vengeance – “The jester knows how to strike you like a thunderbolt hurled by God.”The Duke is up to his old games now toying with Maddalena the assassin Sparfucule’s sister (and decoy) Rigoletto attempts to cure Gilda of her obsession with this worthless man by showing her the Duke and his new conquest and she seems shaken by the betrayal. Rigoletto arranges the details of the killing with Sparafucile. It all seems to be going as planned but Madalena has fallen for the “charming ” man and convinces her brother to get his fee and then kill Rigoletto and dump him in the river. Sparafucile’s honor is challenged (“betray a client”?); they agree to an anonymous substitute. Gilda overhears this and decides to sacrifice herself – “May the man I go to save be happy” The deed is done; the money paid; the body delivered to Rigoletto. Suddenly the voice of the Duke is heard. Rigoletto discovers the dying Gilda. She lives only long enough to ask forgiveness for herself and for the Duke.  Rigoletto cries out for his own death but she is gone.