With an ailing Duke and technical glitches, Miami Lyric Opera still manages a respectable “Rigoletto”

By David Fleshler

After a shaky opening scene and a technical glitch that drew laughter from the audience, Miami Lyric Opera pulled itself together Thursday to put on a more-than-respectable performance of Rigoletto.

Verdi’s tale of a hunchbacked jester whose plot against his master misfires tragically offers star turns for soprano, tenor, baritone and bass. Nelson Martinez, a Miami Lyric regular, gave the performance of the night as the bitter court entertainer, bringing out the humanity of a character capable of tenderly caressing his daughter one moment and plotting murder the next.

But what was most impressive about this performance were the ensemble scenes, particularly those in which Martinez was paired with soprano Gina Galati as Rigoletto’s daughter Gilda. In their first scene together, Martinez brought to his voice a lyric sweetness not apparent in the earlier scene of the hunchback’s crude humor. And Galati fully matched him, as their voices intertwined in a graceful duet that portrayed a father-daughter love that was the only uncorrupted relationship in the opera.

The performance at the Colony Theater in Miami Beach, which will be repeated Saturday night and Sunday afternoon, did not begin well. Although the budget-conscious opera company uses a tiny orchestra, the ensemble still overpowered the singers in the first act, with the voices of Rigoletto and the Duke of Mantua barely audible above the pit muscians.

Part of the problem was tenor Aurelio Dominguez as the Duke, who was clearly not having a great night. Before the performance, Raffaele Cardone, Miami Lyric’s artistic director, announced to the audience that Dominguez had been ill and had almost had to cancel. (As it is, he is now singing only one performance out of three, with a different tenor taking on the role in each of the other two performances.)

Dominguez’s difficulties were apparent from the start, as he sang La donna è mobile with a threadbare voice and unsteady high notes, and throughout the act he had trouble being heard.

The first scene also revealed difficulties in the opera company’s use of English supertitles projected over the stage. These disappeared at times, and at one moment, as Rigoletto was taunting the enraged father Monterone, a pop-up ad appeared on the supertitle screen reading “Lenovo 1 month free – Tech support experts standing by.”

But the performance improved markedly as the evening went on. While the pop-up ad appeared at least one more time, the supertitles seemed generally coordinated with the action. Dominguez gained in vocal strength, and while he continued to sing below the level of the other principals, his reprise of the famous first-act aria was much stronger in the last act, with the heat of his voice coming off as intensity rather than effort.

The last act proved the finest of all. While the orchestra is much too small, with reedy string textures and a lack of balance among the sections, conductor Doris Lang Kosloff made the most of it as she led orchestra and cast in a stirring account of the quartet and a headlong, intense rush through the final acts of deception, self-sacrifice and murder.

Galati was a passionate, vocally impressive Gilda. Her Caro Nome had a couple of unsteady moments, but she brought a clear, rich voice to its lyric passages and handled the coloratura with apparent ease. The quartet and the final scene, as she prepares to meet her death, were her best moments, as she gave a dramatic, vocally searing account of the character’s tortured decision to face the murderer’s knife.

The bass Diego Baner brought a commanding voice and stage presence to the role of Sparafucile, the hired assassin with an odd sense of integrity about his work. While the sinister dialogue in which he offers his services to Rigoletto felt rushed, his dark voice suited the murderer perfectly and he hit the dialogue’s low F in an effortless, sustained manner.

As Monterone, the bass-baritone Armando Naranjo was a portrait of dignity and courage under the guard of the Duke’s henchmen, bringing a rumbling, foreboding anger to his curse of Rigoletto. As Maddalena, the hired assassin’s sister, the mezzo-soprano Lissette Jimenez brought passion to her misplaced love for the Duke and held up her end admirably in the quartet.

Miami Lyric Opera repeats Rigoletto 8 p.m. Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday at the Colony Theater in Miami Beach. For the Saturday performance Susana Diaz will sing the role of Gilda and Eduardo Calcano will sing the Duke. On Sunday, Luis Riopiedre will sing the Duke. miamilyricopera.org; 305-674-1040.

Posted in Performances

Leave a Comment

Fri Jun 24, 2011
at 2:15 pm
No Comments