Lyric Opera | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Lyric Opera 

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The Lyric's riveting new production of Verdi's tragic masterpiece Rigoletto--about the hunchbacked jester to the Duke of Mantua, whose bed is his throne--revels in the story's debauchery. In the title role is baritone Carlos Alvarez, whose first sound on opening night was as creepy as it was marvelous and whose every subsequent note was vocally and emotionally perfect. His embittered jester was bitingly sarcastic in the opening scenes, full of pain and loneliness as he headed home, lovingly tender with his daughter Gilda--his only source of happiness--and profoundly despairing when he learned she'd been abducted and delivered to the duke. Soprano Dina Kuznetsova, a Lyric Opera Center alum, was last on this stage in the leading role of Janacek's The Cunning Little Vixen, but she, with her full and flexible voice, is even more dazzling in the role of Gilda--and she's a superb actress to boot. She was mesmerizing in her first-act aria "Caro Nome," delivering stunning diminuendos and trills even when lying down, and her entire performance was marred only by two or three screechy high fortissimos. Frank Lopardo's big, bold tenor is right for the arrogant duke; at times I wished for a warmer sound, but his voice blended gloriously in the ensemble singing, and his solos, including "La Donna e Mobile," were wonderful. The singers in the smaller roles were all excellent, especially the two powerful baritones, Quinn Kelsey as Monterone and Andrea Silvestrelli as Sparafucile, the hit man Rigoletto hires to avenge his daughter. The story is fast paced, the music ranges from wildly tempestuous to divinely lyrical, the orchestra under Jesus Lopez-Cobos is outstanding, and the cast is exceptional--this may be the highlight of the season. Performances continue through February 17. See also Tuesday. Sat 1/28, 7:30 PM, Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker, 312-332-2244, $41-$175.


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