Opera virtuosos compete in autumn
Verdi’s Rigoletto and Wagner’s Tannhauser coming this month
Operas by Verdi and Wagner, who were born in the same year, will be staged at the same time in late October.
The Korea National Opera (KNO) will perform Verdi’s “Rigoletto” at the Seoul Arts Center from Oct. 19 through 22. This is the first new production the KNO has produced since 1997.
Rigoletto is considered one of Verdi’s masterpieces. The story is a tragedy where a curse is cast by a courtier on the licentious Duke of Mantua and his hunch-backed court jester Rigoletto after the Duke seduces his daughter with the encouragement of Rigoletto. It stems from Rigoletto’s overprotection of his beautiful daughter Gilda. Yet the curse comes on Gilda when she falls in love with the Duke and sacrifices her life to save him from assassins hired by her father.
“The music was considered very advanced at the time. Verdi made it possible to bring out the characters through quartets. It’s almost as if he created the opera for each of the voices. The characteristics of each character are that much distinct. The format of this opera is opposite from his previous pieces,” said French conductor Alain Guingal, during a press conference Tuesday.
“Each aria has a dark vocal tone so it’s difficult to perform. I’m very pleased with the singers for our production. They’re well trained.”
Director Alessandro Talevi from South Africa, said, “I agree with the maestro that this opera has a dark color to it. It has a dark, sinister quality. As a result, it was necessary to use a starting point — creating a world where you feel the danger and violence lurking under the surface. It’s a dark world where people are in constant power struggles with each other and women in particular find themselves in vulnerable situations,” he said.
Talevi reinterpreted the 19th century opera in a modern context. The setting is in a nightclub and the Duke is the owner of the nightclub while Rigoletto is a comedian performing there.
“The theme is universal, particularly in the world of gangsters and modern crime. I wanted to make two points. First, that everyone is able to live in a hypocritical way. Rigolettolives a life of hypocrisy until the moment that it actually hits him in which point he decides to call for vengeance. The other important theme is the tragedy of this piece — an unhealthy relationship between father and daughter. He overprotects her because he’s surrounded by the danger that she might be abducted. In this way, he damages her because she’s unable to grow and become an adult. He tries to keep her in a childlike state. He loves her so much that it damages her in the end and leads to the ultimate tragedy.”
In the role of Gilda, the daughter of Rigoletto, Korean soprano Kathleen Kim and Italian soprano Jessica Nuccio are double cast.
“Rigoletto” will also be performed in Daegu as part of the 15th Daegu Opera Festival as the opening piece on Oct. 12. The Daegu Opera House has locally produced the operatic piece and it will run from Oct. 12 through 14.
Meanwhile, the Seongnam Art Center will be staging Wagner’s “Tannhauser” from Oct. 26 through 29 at its opera house. This is the first time since 1979 that this opera has been performed as a local production.
“Tannhauser” is considered a complex opera for novices. Wagner’s pieces are usually extremely long with complicated plots based on Middle Ages myths with a mix of religious elements, including salvation and redemption.
The plot involves Tannhauser, a legendary medieval German knight and poet, who struggles between sacred and profane love, and seeks redemption through it.
Redemption is a theme running through much of Wagner’s work.
In the role of Tannhauser, American tenor Robert Dean Smith and Korean tenor Kim Seok-chul are double cast. German conductor Michael Boder and Korean director Park Sang-yun will be leading the production.
Poster for “Rigoletto”
Poster for “Tannhauser”