An intense father-daughter relationship is at the heart of Verdi’s opera Rigoletto, which opens Cincinnati Opera’s summer season with performances Thursday and Saturday. Baritone Stephen Powell makes his role debut as Rigoletto, the acid-tongued jester, and soprano Sarah Coburn is his daughter Gilda.
Rigoletto has a classic case of denial — as jester to the corrupt Duke of Mantua, Rigoletto encourages his boss’ serial seductions and attempts to keep his teenaged daughter sheltered from the world. He’s bound to fail — and he does, on an operatic scale.
Gilda can only leave home to go to church, where she meets the Duke disguised as a poor student. She falls hopelessly in love and acts as impulsively as any adolescent, but with far more tragic results.
The characters resonate with both singers, often with surprising intensity.
“I remember how I felt as a 17-year-old in love,” Coburn says. “Those feelings were so strong they caused me to do things that were totally irrational. For me to justify what Gilda eventually does, I go back to how I felt about my first love. If he lies and cheats, you still can’t get over the feelings of the first kiss or holding his hand. Even after her eyes are opened, Gilda’s feelings are so strong they overwhelm her. She is naive but, as a character, she works for me.”
Cincinnati Opera presents Verdi’s Rigoletto Thursday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Music Hall. Go here to read Anne Arenstein's full review.