Review: Rigoletto at L.A. Opera

Juan Jesus Rodriguez in the title role of LA Opera's 2018 production of "Rigoletto." (Photo: Ken Howard / LA Opera)

Ah, the efficacy of a fist-brandishing curse! Imagine if vengeance could be yours just through the advocacy of condemning words. Rigoletto is one of Verdi’s most popular operas, perhaps because the themes of seduction and revenge are timeless. Based on the play Le rói s’amuse by Victor Hugo, it was originally called La maledizione (The Curse) which still feels like a more fitting title as the opera hangs on this premise.

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Arturo Chacon-Cruz as the Duke of Mantua and Juan Jesus Rodriguez as Rigoletto in LA Opera’s 2018 production of “Rigoletto.” (Photo: Ken Howard / LA Opera)

Baritone, Juan Jésus Rodríguez is the namesake court jester who offends courtiers with impunity while wickedly abetting his master, the playboy Duke (Arturo Chacon-Cruz) in his sexual conquests. Meanwhile, Rigoletto has safely hidden away his own virginal daughter, Gilda (Lisette Oropesa) from the preying eyes of his master, thinking them safe from karmic payback. When the father of one of the seduced girls places a curse on the Rigoletto, the scene is set for retribution and tragedy. Turns out the Duke, masquerading as a penniless student, and Gilda have already been carrying out a secret tryst, and all efforts by a rightfully paranoid Rigoletto to prevent the curse, only catalyze it.

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Juan Jesus Rodriguez as Rigoletto and Lisette Oropesa as Gilda in LA Opera’s 2018 production of “Rigoletto.” (Photo: Ken Howard / LA Opera)

Rodriguez, Ruiz, and Oropesa are all in top form, and the highlight of the evening came with Oropesa’s rousing delivery of the coloratura aria “Caro Nome.” Morris Robinson (who wowed in Mozart’s “The Abduction from the Seraglio”) as the mercenary killer Sparafucile and Ginger Costa-Jackson as his seductress sister, Maddalena (who, true to the Duke’s misogynistic views on women, also falls for his charms) come close to stealing the show while bringing moments of dark humor to the appropriately mournful mood. Constance Hoffman’s masquerade-themed costume design provides much-needed period authenticity, and helps offset Michael Yeargan’s sparse, highly-saturated set design with the curious 80’s pop colors.

— G. Dhalla

Rigoletto is playing at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion through June 3rd. Tickets HERE.