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Guido LeBron's lead performance makes a solid 'Rigoletto' for Anchorage Opera

  • Author: Mike Dunham
  • Updated: October 31, 2016
  • Published October 29, 2016

Anchorage Opera's current staging of "Rigoletto" is a reasonably solid production of what many consider Verdi's first great work. Guido LeBron brought a strong physicality to the title role of the malicious jester and matched it with the most powerful voice in the troupe.

Though their voices are notably lighter, Rachel Policar and Peter Scott Drackley, as Rigoletto's daughter Gilda and the rakish Duke of Mantua, sang convincingly. Policar's top notes were especially notable and Drackley's breath control impressive, considering that this was his first time in the role. His sound also had a certain "ping" that one expects to be developed in the next few years.

In his first appearance, bass Matthew Anchel lacked some of the heft we'd like to hear from the killer-for-hire Sparafucile, but his sound came on stronger in the final act. Maddalena, the assassin's seductress sister, was suitably presented by Juliana Curcio. Among the several local singers in secondary roles, I was most impressed by Kyle Gantz's Monterone and thought it was the best operatic singing I've heard from him yet.

The all-male chorus, too, was exceptionally strong compared to previous Anchorage Opera productions. The orchestra was on the small side but conductor Brian DeMaris got a lot out of them.

Admirable sets by Peter Harrison were big and complex, requiring an overhaul for each act. The palace of the first scene features a staircase from which key characters made their entries with great effect. The renaissance-era costumes made a good impression and Cedar Cussins' lighting conveyed the idea of a lightening storm while remaining subdued.

The stage direction by Jeffrey Marc Buchman had a couple of unexpected twists. Monterone's daughter, mutely portrayed by Amander Boger, was identified on stage, though she doesn't sing. And Gilda sang her final phrases at the end as a ghost. But the acting, overall, seemed somewhat stiff, stock and perhaps under-rehearsed.

Other possible missteps were the panels that opened from the mural-painted walls of the Duke's palace, giving some the unfortunate recollection of the set on the old television show "Laugh-In." And when the Duke caressed the bare back of one of his courtesans while singing that his love of Gilda was almost enough to make him give up vice, it drew some chuckles from the crowd.

The sum of the music, singing and sets easily outweighed such small issues and the opening night audience was generous with its applause and cheers.

RIGOLETTO will be presented at 8 p.m. Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday in the Discovery Theatre. Tickets are available at centertix.net.

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