Thursday, May 21, 2009

Riggy, I Can't See You!

Rigoletto was back at the Portland Opera for their final production of the ’08-’09 season. Or as some of us say, “welcome home, Riggy!” Why? Because returning to perform the title role was Mark Rucker who sang in the previous production of Rigoletto in 1998.

I must say I was very proud to be a part of the opera chorus at that time and singing with one of the world’s premier Verdi Baritones is not something that another baritone takes lightly. In ’98 I was able to observe Mark in every aspect of his character integration with the show. I say ‘integration’ rather than ‘development’ because Mr. Rucker had performed the role countless times even then. I’m sure he’s got a few dozen more under his belt in the last 11 years. But watching him work behind the scenes was amazing from the first music rehearsal to just before the final curtain when he cries in agony over losing his precious daughter, Gilda.

Well, cut 11 years and I’m now in the audience ready to enjoy Rigoletto from an audience perspective on a $20 ticket (thanks to PO’s new policy of “padding the house” on certain days and sections). One thing I will say about this new production is that it was not well lit. After performing a number of operas where the lighting designer throws lights from all angles from the rafters, downstage, and offstage left and right, (and becoming near blinded in the process) this show had minimal lighting. Unfortunately, the beautiful, multi-functional 2-level set was drenched in darkness, and all the wonderful colorful costumes were just so-so in the drisly trickle of illumination. So I say to the lighting designer, "may a thousand points of light sting your eyeballs so you can know what light looks like!"

The sound, however, was astounding! Rucker…yo, what can I say? He’s da BOMB! But one thing that stood out this time around was the last scene. Remember in "Godfather III" when Michael Corleone is on the steps of the opera house after his daughter was shot, and he gave that looooong silent scream, then suddenly inhales and wails in dispair? Rucker's wail was like that. Chilling to the bone and heartbreaking.

And Gilda, sung by Sarah Coburn, brought the house down with her “Caro nome”. I’m not usually a big fan of twittery coloraturas, but Coburn made me swoon. Peter Volpe was Sparafucile and if there ever was a bass that I want to be when I grow up, it is Mr. Volpe. My favorite memory of the show is in Act II when Sparafucile tells Riggy that he’ll be at the same place every night if he needs him, and walks offstage singing a low F – still resonating in the back of the house! Gotta love a great bass!

But by far I am most proud of the men’s chorus. The men’s chorus in Riggy is tough. I mean machine gun, ratta-tat-tat type of patter singing that is not easy to coordinate with 20 men, a 40 piece orchestra, and a baton. But the men were DEAD SOLID PERFECT! I have never, even in recordings, heard the chorus so spot on. Brilliantly sung. Bravo, men!

Now the season is closed and we look forward to yet another production of La Boheme in September. I think it’s the 4th time in 15 years that they’ve done this show. Hmmm…must be a moneymaker. I’ll be looking for my $20 tic for this as well.

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The Return of Evil

So yes, Evil Baritone is still around. I’ve decided to come out of hiding once again because a) this rock is getting heavy, and b) I missed torturing my loyal readers with my insensitive slather and incomprehensible drivel. Besides, hopefully all the baddies have gone and I can blog in peace once again. If not, then they’ll have to suffer the slings and arrows as a result of my outrageous fortune.

Welcome back, Jack!