BWW Review: RIGOLETTO Sets the Stage for Edmonton Opera's 2019-2020 Season
Love, revenge, and tragedy take centre stage in Rigoletto, Giuseppe Verdi's 1581 classic. The spectacular first offering of Edmonton Opera's 2019-2020 season, the production enthralls with its lavish score and dynamic performances, inciting sympathy and laughter while exploring timeless themes including family, gender, and age-old struggles with identity and self-worth.
James Westman is arresting in the role of scorned court jester and enmeshed father Rigoletto. His transition from bumbling trickster to vengeful parent is intriguing, as are his formidable voice and stage presence. Whether engaging in his character's clownish antics or plotting vengeance for the kidnap of his starry-eyed daughter Gilda (Sharleen Joynt), Westman is believable as a man enduring abuse and shame from fellow courtiers. He shines during Rigoletto's thunderous soliloquies and heart-wrenching duets with stage daughter Joynt. Together, they paint a striking portrait of an onstage father and daughter, nurturing palpable tension and tenderness in turns.
Likewise, Joynt shines in the role of Gilda, effortlessly capturing a doting daughter's love and giddy infatuation with a handsome but philandering suitor (Matthew White). Her silvery coloratura soars to impossible heights and her gestures and mannerisms evoke both her character's love for her father and enamoured glee towards her suitor.
However, unbeknownst to Gilda, her love interest is none other than the nefarious Duke of Mantua, a golden-haired womanizer and her father's standoffish master. White plays the villain with panache, impressing with his rich tenor while engaging in unabashed courtly shenanigans.
Along with its fantastic performances, Edmonton Opera's production of Rigoletto is a daring feat unto itself. It boasts unconventional aesthetics and costuming, encouraging audiences to appreciate both the classic's traditional essence and contemporary elements. Set against a unique backdrop of sliding semi-transparent glass doors, Rigoletto evokes decadent grand estates of medieval Mantua and infuses it with modern flair including 21st century props and furniture. With the exception of the female chorus's neon Rocky Horror-esque getup, the show's melding of centuries is successful, proving that centuries-old favourites can shine in new ways while still retaining their original integrity. Ultimately, this innovative production of Rigoletto sets the bar high for Edmonton Opera's forthcoming productions of The Marriage of Figaro and Leonard Bernstein's Candide, two other beloved classics. Perhaps they too will breathe new life into old favourites, enticing even more generations of theatregoers to enjoy this timeless art form.
The Marriage of Figaro will play the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium on February 1, 4, and 7, 2020 while Candide will step into the spotlight on March 14, 17, and 20, 2020. Rigoletto took its final Edmonton bow on October 25.