Utah Opera Performs Rigoletto

Last night was opening night for Utah Opera’s Rigoletto, the famous Verdi opera with the iconic (and very catchy) song, La donna è mobile (“Woman is Fickle”).  In short, I felt the opera was–and it pains me to admit–disappointing.

First, a few disclaimers: one, this was my first time seeing Rigoletto so I don’t have any other performances of it to compare or contrast with; and two, the last operas I have seen were in notably larger cities with even larger budgets in comparison to Utah Opera (The Tales of Hoffman in Chicago and the entire Ring Cycle in San Francisco).  But regardless, the singers could barely be heard in the mezzanine during the first act.  I felt as if they were holding themselves back, especially considering the way soprano Celena Shafer was belting out notes by the middle of Act II.

The story of Rigoletto is disturbing in itself: in short, a cursed jester seeks revenge on a duke who dishonors his daughter, arranges to have him killed, only to have his love-sickened daughter sacrifice herself in place of the duke and the jester receives a bag of remains that turns out to be his own daughter.  (Read the entire synopsis on Wikipedia here.)  I felt that last night’s performance lacked the passion required of an opera that dramatic.  A few scenes were pulled off quite well, but it wasn’t as captivating as it should have been.

Utah Opera’s Robert McPherson (The Duke), Kirsten Gunlogson (Maddalena) &
Celena Shafer (Gilda, in background). (Photo by Paul Fraughton via SL Tribune.)

Utah Opera tends, in my opinion, to do comedies much better than dramas.  (Their production of Italian Girl in Algiers last March was one of the best and funniest operas I’ve seen in Utah.)  I hope last night’s disappointments can be attributed to opening night nerves and that their next performances this week will be better.  (Performances are this Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.)  In the meantime, I look forward to their next opera— luckily it’s the comedy  The Elixir of Love — in March.

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