In the U.S. and much of the world, opera survives largely through the generosity of wealthy patrons—even when ticket sales surpass expectations—bolstering the impression that the points-of-view espoused in these masterworks are those of the nobility, or, in the case of contemporary works, of the financial aristocracy. But that is not the case; rather, Verdi, like Victor Hugo and others before him, had to fight the censors to get their works to the stage, due to their implicit criticism of the monarchy and their ilk.

Gordon Hawkins as Rigoletto
Gordon Hawkins as Rigoletto
Photo: © Matthew Staver
In Rigoletto, one of Verdi's greatest efforts, he takes on the sexual entitlements taken for granted by noblemen over their female subjects, much as Mozart did in Don Giovanni. The Duke of Mantua (Rene Barbera) goes from conquest to conquest, extolling the virtues of love without commitment ("In my heart, all are equally cherishe'd"), while his fool, the deformed Rigoletto (Gordon Hawkins), derides the fathers and husbands of the unfortunate maids and wives whose honor has been besmirched.

Rachele Gilmore as Gilda
Gordon Hawkins as Rigoletto
Photo: © Matthew Staver
Hawkins' stature and expressive, rich baritone amplify the gravity of his plight: under attack from offended townsfolks, while trying to protect his lovely and chaste daughter, Gilda (Rachele Gilmore), from the rapacious nobles. Barbera's strong tenor and Gilmore's soaring soprano bring so many special moments separately and together, one hopes the music will never end, despite the impunity that wealth buys. Clearly, Rigoletto is as relevant today as it was 163 years ago.

The sets, originally designed by Sarah J. Conly and Michael Deegan for the Atlanta Opera and made available through the Utah Symphony and Opera, as well as the costumes, designed by Susan Memmott Allred for the Utah Symphony and Opera, provide for a magnificent spectacle, directed by Bernard Uzan.

(Left to right) Brett Sprague as Borsa and Rene Barbera as the Duke
(L to R) Brett Sprague as Borsa
and Rene Barbera as the Duke
Photo: © Matthew Staver
Verdi's evocative score is brought to life in a beautiful rendition by Maestro Leonardo Vordoni and the Opera Colorado Orchestra.

Opera Colorado's Rigoletto runs through March 23rd. For tickets: 303-468-2030 or

Bob Bows


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