Verdi’s Rigoletto Academy of Music

Verdi’s Rigoletto - Opera Philadelphia returns to its longtime home for grand opera for the first time in more than two years with a production of Verdi’s unforgettable tragedy Rigoletto, long one of the most popular works in the operatic canon.

Rigoletto is a court jester to the Duke of Mantua, a notorious sexual abuser. After the Duke harms a young woman, Rigoletto mocks the victim’s father, who then curses the jester for being so heartless. Later, the Duke rapes Rigoletto’s own daughter, Gilda, and the cruel joke falls on Rigoletto. Basing his opera off Victor Hugo’s play Le roi s’amuse, Verdi composed Rigoletto as a confrontation to authority and as a means of illuminating abuse of power. The opera features several well-known arias, including Rigoletto’s passionate denouncement “Cortigiani, vil razza dannata,” Gilda’s dreamy “Caro nome,” and the Duke’s instantly recognizable “La donna è mobile.”

In a timely production from New Zealand Opera, director Lindy Hume offers no mercy for powerful men who abuse women and confronts today's newsmakers with her interpretation of Verdi’s classic. Hume has been frustrated by traditional opera’s tendency to celebrate misogyny through its “bad boy” characters. In beloved works such as Don Giovanni, Carmen, and Tosca, sopranos must rehearse how to fall, how to be stabbed, brutalized, and thrown across the room, behaviors they would never accept in real life.

“If opera aspires to be a future-focused art form, then it must evolve and be responsive to a changing society,” Hume says. “This history of telling stories about women being raped, murdered, and abused in opera is right there in front of us, either to explore or to ignore.”

When the stage director created the production for New Zealand Opera in 2012, former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was breezing through a high-profile sex trial. Back then, Hume found inspiration in the controversial billionaire and politician for the Duke of Mantua; Hume’s production is, in fact, set at the “presidential palace” on election night. Now, presenting this piece for American audiences, Hume acknowledges some may find a similarity between the Duke and former President Donald Trump.

Jack Mulroney Music Director Corrado Rovaris leads the Opera Philadelphia Orchestra and Chorus and a cast featuring baritone Anthony Clark Evans, lauded for his “stentorian Verdi style” by the Chicago Tribune and as “warm-toned, vivacious and humane” by the San Francisco Chronicle, in the title role of the Duke’s jester Rigoletto. British-American tenor Joshua Blue makes his company and role debuts as the philandering Duke of Mantua with Baltimore-born soprano Raven McMillon, a winner in the 2021 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions her company and role debuts as Rigoletto’s daughter, Gilda.

Verdi’s Rigoletto
April 29, May 1, May 6 & May 8, 2022
Academy of Music

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