TCO season off to good start with well-sung ‘Rigoletto’

Reviewed by Sherri Strichman

Tri-Cities Opera opened its 2014-15 season last night (Oct. 24) with a well-received production of Giuseppe Verdi’s Rigoletto at The Forum in Binghamton. In the title role, Guido LeBrón gave a solid performance from start to finish. The TCO alumnus’ powerful voice conveyed cruel wit, tenderness, triumph, suspicion and fear in a myriad of vocal colors without ever sacrificing the beauty of his instrument. The “Cortigiani”of Act 2 was a masterful pleading for the return of his daughter.

He was well supported by the orchestra, under the direction of Andrew Bisantz, who is a real singers’ conductor. He wielded the orchestra as almost a single entity, another character in the drama.

Meroë Khalia Adeeb, a member of Binghamton University’s Masters of Music Opera program, portrayed Gilda. Her sweet and beautiful voice had the flexibility for “Caro Nome” and the necessary steel for the more dramatic work of Acts 2 and 3. She matched her father well in the vocally demanding close of Act 2, and in Act 3 her dying throes were particularly poignant. It was a good death.

TCO Resident Artist Christopher Trapani was less satisfying as the Duke. He has a fine instrument, but the high notes sounded tight and his acting was wooden. His best singing came in the last act with the famous aria “La donna è mobile” and in the quartet as he wooed Maddalena. Resident Artist Meaghan Heath was ready to be wooed and responded in a pleasant, but not especially sultry voice.  As her brother, Brandon Coleman, also a 2014-15 Resident Artist, was appropriately sinister.

The minor roles, with the exception of Monterone, were handled by students in the MM Opera program and were sung well.  Casting Monterone is sometimes problematic.  It is a small, but pivotal role, often sung by small-part singers.  Happily, baritone Thomas Goodheart, a BU voice professor, had the maturity and dramatic ability to be believable as a father, and the vocal heft to lay down a curse that would have Rigoletto remembering it to the final despairing notes of the opera.

The sets showing four locations were attractive. The costumes were not; in particular, the men’s doublets and tights. It seemed that the skimpier the top, the lighter and tighter the tights. It was not a good look. Adding to that bad look was the chorus members’ staging in which they performed unison gestures and movements – very Gilbert & Sullivan. Fortunately, they sounded good.

The stumbling point for me in this opera has always been the scene in which Rigoletto helps in the abduction of his daughter. Yes, it’s dark; yes, the other men spin him around, but could anyone really not feel the difference between a mask and a blindfold? This might have been helped a little by dimming the lighting level on stage for this. But then, as dedicated operaphiles, we’ve all been trained, like Lewis Carroll’s white queen, to “believe six impossible things before breakfast,” so what’s one more?

A note to the younger singers in this production: As you grow in your singing and your stagecraft, you would do well to work on making sure your gestures and movement are not from the 21st century. Too much television hath made thee mad.

This production will be performed again at 3 p.m. Sunday (Oct. 26) at The Forum, 236 Washington St., Binghamton, and is well worth seeing. Tickets: Call the box office at 772-0400, or visit www.tricitiesopera.com.

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3 Responses to "TCO season off to good start with well-sung ‘Rigoletto’"

  1. Fantumoftheopera

    I wish to thank the Broome Arts Mirror, and in particular to Ms. Barb Van Atta for instituting a reviewer for the Tri-Cities Opera productions, and to Ms. Sherri Strichman for ably taking on this assignment.
    Once a feature executed by the local newspaper, then discontinued for no truly good reason, it has fallen on the Mirror to be the true pulse of the arts community. However, for the past few years a true review did not exist, but instead an overview of dress rehearsals. Now as the name infers, these were rehearsals, final or not, and as rehearsals go, were still in the throes of implementing changes, stops and starts, singers resting their voices for the real performance, etc. These “reviews” could not be taken seriously due to the nature of the events occurring which were simply rehearsals and an incomplete and unfair measure of the company’s work.
    Starting this past weekend with TCO’s Rigoletto production, the Mirror now offered a true review, and in Ms. Strichman, the review comes from an educated ear and eye.
    Bravo to you, Broome Arts Mirror, for giving to us, who are opera fans, an educated critic of TCO’s opening night productions. This is a healthy action for both TCO and for the public in general.

  2. Roberta Kolpakas

    Sherri Strichman,

    It is wonderful to see a true review of the Tri-Cities Opera — one of the unique features of Binghamton — rather than a regurgitated press release. My comment is in regards to neither the opera nor your opinions; the problem is that which is omitted.
    First, whether the critique is favorable or foul, or if only as a passing mention, the director — David Lefkowich — should be credited.
    Second, if you are going to review the sets, the lighting and the costumes you must mention the designers for each. For this Tri-Cities Opera production: Scenic design by Gary C. Eckhart, lighting design by Christopher Frey and costume design by Stephen M. Dell’Aversano.
    The names for each production position are easily available within your program, on the page proceeding the cast list.

    Cheers!

  3. Tony Villecco

    I was unable to attend the opera because of a performance by my own opera group for teens (who don’t sing Verdi!), but I have reviewed many before as well as studied vocally — and performed — the complexities of classical music, particularly opera.

    The problem with modern-day opera and specifically the young singers of this production (and many others) is they are not yet, at least, capable of producing the vocal demands of these operas, especially Verdi! I was against — and am still against –the merging of TCO with SUNY Binghamton’s MM in Opera Program — major mistake in quality of vocal demands.

    We go to the opera to hear VOICES, not pre-professionals who are not yet equipped, either by talent or training, to take on and offer these roles with conviction or talent or voice. While I applaud any non-professional singer for attempting to sing a role of the Verdian canon, it is an insult to their teachers, and to the public, who are paying $70 plus to see an amateur posing as a professional — with limited vocal quality to project, even over the orchestra.

    These young singers need experience, granted, but limit this to the college level where the teachers are more adept in conjoining them to not only appropriate roles but to training them in the necessary skills it takes and offering a college-level opera workshop, to become an opera singer who will hopefully be capable to produce the tonality and vocal quality necessary eventually, to the main stage. Till then, we have hired talented amateurs instead of professional singers whom, of all composers, should never be attempting a Verdi role until they are at least 40. It is not only the fault on the young singer, but of their so called “teacher” as well.

    Do we really have to prostitute opera to this level? I think not. Shame on their teachers, and to the curriculum of their college requirements, to be forced to sing roles for which they may not yet be ready for at least 10 to 20 years (if ever). I regret I was not able to review, as I have in the past, the platitudes of this production.

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