Of Verdi's many great operas, Rigoletto was the first to achieve fame, and it's easy to see why in Opera Colorado's current production: the lyrical and emotive music coupled with three excellent vocal performances is thrilling.

In fact, such is the beauty of the score that not even an ill-conceived adaptation could spoil it, though the transposition from feudal to modern times, with the duke becoming a mafia don, and the back alleys of Venice turned into a seedy warehouse district, substantially dilute the context and reduce the dramatic stakes of the story.

Photo of Christopher Robertson as Rigoletto
Christopher Robertson
as Rigoletto
Photo credit: P. Switzer
Once again, it needs to be asked why directors feel compelled to modernize classics by placing them in settings devoid of the dynamics that gave the original its pizzazz. In Verdi's time, the ruling class was under fire for their repressive governance and profligate lifestyles, and Verdi enjoyed playing to these anti-royalist sentiments of the masses. And though Rigoletto was changed by the censor, the audience understood what Verdi (and Victor Hugo, on whose play, Le roi s'amuse, the story is based) intended.

If an adaptation is in order for Rigoletto, then, it should be one that clarifies Verdi's intent, not one that diffuses it. It is also insulting to modern audiences to be told that adaptations are needed so that they can understand what is happening. Fans of opera, Shakespeare, and the Greeks are well-educated and highly-literate, and are quite capable of drawing their own conclusions. Additionally, almost all audiences enjoy being transported to times and places they can no longer visit.

Photo of Jennifer Welch-Babidge as Gilda
Jennifer Welch-Babidge
as Gilda
Photo credit: P. Switzer
So, instead of the deformed and tragic clown who is the object of snobbish ridicule, we have a Rigoletto whose physical challenges are barely perceptable, and whose clownishness seems more servile than foolish, that is, self-inflicted rather than dictated by caste or class.

Despite these encumberances, baritone Christopher Robertson's Rigoletto gains our sympathy through his expressive renderings and heartfelt devotion to his daughter Gilda. Here, Jennifer Welch-Babidge's soprano was breathtaking, and filled the acoustically-challenged hall. Julian Gavin as the Duke, is a spirited tenor with impeccable Italian phrasing.

Photo of Julian Gavin as the Duke of Mantua
Julian Gavin as
the Duke of Mantua
Photo credit: P. Switzer
The rest of the ensemble is strong as well, and the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, led by Mark Morash, though brisk at times, performed admirably. As always, the Opera Colorado chorus was strong, but were poorly staged, spending far too much time standing inert in the background.

Opera Colorado's Rigoletto remaining performances are April 26th and 29th at 7:30 pm and and May 1st at 2 pm, in Boettcher Auditorium. 303-893-4100 or

Bob Bows


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