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.