Opera Review: ‘Rigoletto’ Invigorates Detroit, Rigorously

"Rigoletto" at the Detroit Opera House. (Photo credit: Michigan Opera Theatre)

“Blackbird singing in the dead of night….”

The Beatles    

Verlander may be gone; but Verdi is back in town. One of his best operas, with a world-famous aria, invigorating not only Westerndom, but Detroit — the great city of Michigan – opened the fall season of the Michigan Opera Theatre this past Saturday, and will be performed thrice more.
Rigoletto was given a bit of a makeover, being set in NYC’s Little Italy, circa The 1950s –and it worked just fine.  If I ever see it again, I think I’d like to see it as Verdi saw it: set in a 1500s Italian Dukedom; but it was cool to see a classic opera set in America with hoods with hats, smoking cigarettes, and pounding on jukeboxes — just like The Fonz.
The core story was the same. Love, betrayal, revenge, tragedy.
Rigoletto himself comes across as a sympathetic character. So does his lovely daughter.
The NYC hoods who mess with the pair are a contemptible lot. I had a few bad experiences myself with bad people when I lived in Brooklyn back in 1992-1993. I remember one thug telling me one night right before Christmas 1992, “If you don’t give us any cash, I’m gonna stick you.”  Maybe that’s why they really bothered me, viscerally.
I wish people were better.
Some people just can’t be nice to other people on a regular basis. It sucks.
Or nice to animals.
So many people don’t even slow down when they see an animal crossing the road. Some people even try to hit them. NEWSFLASH:  if no one is right on your ass, you can actually brake for an animal and save its life. I’ve done it. I saved a squirrel once by slamming on my brakes. I saved a doe once, too, by slowing down considerably down a long and winding road in Oregon, merely tapping it with my front passenger side bumper as it scurried back into the brush.
I heard a man on WWJ-950 AM say to just hit a deer if one crosses your path. He didn’t mention slowing down when you see deer around. No, just keep speeding along and plow right into them like a terrorist driving on the sidewalks of Barcelona. Rex should call him a moron, too…..
Rigoletto was like a deer on the road and the thugs sped up and hit him.
He was a tragic figure, played magnificently by Roland Wood. Called a buffoon relentlessly by the bullies and their leader, The Duke, brought to life by Joshua Guerrero, who got a few boos during the curtain call from his becoming the evil Duke by a few people who suspended their disbelief perhaps a little too far…. Finally, Rigoletto strikes back, albeit ineptly, magnifying the tragedy of the opera tenfold.
His daughter, Gilda, played by So Young Park (and also Hai Ji Chang for a performance on Sunday), sang like a perfect angel.
Like a blackbird singing in the dead of night.
So go see Rigoletto. Verlander has gone to Houston. The Tigers suck. The Red Wings didn’t protect Mrazek. The Lions took a knee. Give Art a chance.
Got Culture? Get it. If it’s good enough for blackberry and raspberry and French vanilla yogurt, it’s good enough for me, and it’s good enough for you, too, to boot!


“Rigoletto” continues at the Detroit Opera House with three more performances on Wednesday, Oct. 18 at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 21 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 22 at 2:30 p.m. For tickets and more information, visit http://www.michiganopera.org/opera/rigoletto/


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