Rigoletto - Hollywood Bowl - August 12, 2012
Mathew Imaging Corp Gustavo Dudamel conducts Rigoletto at the Hollywood Bowl with Zeljko Lucic (far left) as Rigoletto and Irina Lungu (second from left) as Gilda
The Hollywood Bowl
Better than... the guy outside the Bowl with a dog puppet doing a one-man a capella version of Handel's Hallelujah chorus.
Most American orchestras coast during their summer season with puffery such as symphonic arrangements of Pink Floyd, Broadway show tunes, or backing second-tier geezer rockers. Some of the repertoire may be cheesy, but audiences love it.
But the LA Philharmonic is not your average American orchestra. Sunday evening, Gustavo Dudamel led the LA Phil, the men of the Los Angeles Master Chorale, and a fine roster of opera singers in a rousing concert performance of one of the nastiest operas of the 19th century -- Rigoletto, by Giuseppe Verdi.
Rigoletto is populated by disgusting creatures...
The Duke of Mantua is a womanizing asshole. His jester, Rigoletto, is a dickweed whose idea of humor is to diss guests at the Duke's ball by predicting his boss will have sex with their wives. Sparafucile is a cheap killer-for-hire, and Maddalena, his sister, assists him by waving her badonkadonk to lure his targets into their shit stain of a tavern.
The only decent person in this bunch is Gilda, Rigoletto's daughter, who is tragically in love with the Duke -- a man whose theme song is literally, "La Donna e Mobile" (Women Are Fickle). Oh dear. This can't go well, can it?
Most productions of Rigoletto these days are ironically undermined by the title role. Coloraturas and brilliant tenors are plentiful for the parts of Gilda and the Duke, respectively, but it's rare to find a baritone who can imbue Rigoletto with the requisite depth, power, and persuasive acting skills. It's not fair to judge the latter in an unstaged performance, but I'd guess that Zeljko Lucic qualifies. You could hear the mockery, the anger, and the anguish in his voice, all supported by a rich, resonant, and sure tone.
Mathew Imaging Corp Way to piss off the hunchback, guys. Now you're in for it (Zeljok Lucic as Rigoletto)
Tenor David Lomeli has been heard often in L.A., and his strong, confident voice worked well for the part of the shallow but dashing Duke. Soprano Irina Lungu has a complex, dark tone, a little too deep-colored for my taste for the part of Gilda, but her musicality was wonderfully sympathetic to the role. Nancy Fabiola Herrera made a great Maddalena, a mezzo with a sensuous growl that could melt the pants off the most resistant male.