"It’s insane…she’s so young!...”
“I haven’t heard a live performance better than that in the last 25 years, since I started going to concerts!...”
“She has a recording…it’s in the program notes…I THINK I FOUND A WAY TO ORDER IT!...”
That was the buzz at intermission. We had just heard Italian soprano Rosa Feola singing a flawless aria Gualtier Maldé! ...Caro Nome, relishing in her feelings for the newfound love of her life, actually the rakish Duke of Mantua who had pretended to be a penniless student in order to win her heart. As she sang she also projected a sexual longing that perhaps for many evoked a memory of their erotic first crush.
This was singing that truly transported as only an operatic voice can do. How amazing that this stunning feeling of experiencing perfection returned in Acts II and III— when both tenor Matthew Polenzani performing as the Duke of Mantua and baritone Quinn Kelsey as Rigoletto similarly sang. If this wasn’t a trifecta of perfection, it was darn close.
Lyric Opera stages one of Verdi's most popular operas
For those of us who can summon YouTube born recollections of Pavarotti’s voice singing La donna è mobile easily, it’s not a small feat for a tenor to pierce that ear memory, but Polenzani does and did. And, in a hindsight that was summoned in the instant when Quinn in his bows flashed his charismatic smile, we realize just how much his voice and acting were a super-magnet pulling us to the music and story in every scene.
This Verdi score—so, so beautiful and in that short list of the most popularly recognizable opera repertoire— includes a feast of opportunities for the singers talents to transport us– solos, duets (for example Rigoletto and his daughter singing Figlia, mio Padre!), and the Bella figlia dell’amore quartet in the last Act. Even the voices of relatively minor roles—notably bass Alexander Tsymbalyuk as murderer Sparafucile and mezzo-soprano Zanda Švēde as his sister Maddelena—excite that inner voice that wants to beg “Please, please do it again!” One senses the masterful baton of conductor Marco Armiliato at work throughout.
These transporting voices ARE what make this Rigoletto a top pick.
From this writer’s viewpoint, you won’t find stagecraft on par with the singing by a long stretch. These are sets that take up space, more than define it, and especially in the case of Rigoletto’s home, which feels more like its centerpiece is an industrial building’s stairwell, most of the sets are a bit distracting rather than enriching.
Not to worry though. These voices, this conductor, the never failing Lyric Chorus and Lyric Orchestra don’t need much, if any, help.
Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO, where it will remain until the end of the run. Click here to read – Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves.