Opera Philadelphia returns to the Academy of Music’s stage with its presentation of Verdi’s Rigoletto.
The casts and creatives of Opera Philadelphia return this week to the Academy of Music’s stages for the first time since September 2019. Think of how big of a deal that is, coming home to base, to the comfort and artifice of this city’s most classically sound conscious stage where voices lift and carry. Doing so with its usual twist on tradition (e.g. cell phones, minimalist design) for four performances of Rigoletto – Giuseppe Verdi’s vocal classic revolving around curses, rapes, assassinations, power struggles and more – make it a perfect Opera Philadelphia enterprise.
Running from April 29-May 8, with first-time Opera Philadelphia’s Anthony Clark Evans (baritone, as Rigoletto), Raven McMillon (soprano, as Gilda) and Joshua Blue (tenor, as the Duke of Mantua) makes the engine of this particular Othello roar.
Speaking for his fellow new Opera Philadelphia artists, Blue has forever known of the power, invention and conviviality of the locally-based vocal company. “Opera Philadelphia has this reputation, well deserved, for being innovative and really fostering the arts and its community. Opera Philadelphia nurtures its young artists in new roles. It’s risky giving three young singers major roles for their first time out.”
“Without ego, this is the nicest company I have ever worked with and I’ve worked at every regional opera company in the country,” says Clark Evans. “And we’re going to blow your mind this time, just as my mind was blown seeing the Academy of Music and gawking.”
As to how the work of Verdi shifts opera’s paradigm with his music and his modernist scripts, Blue calls the composer, “a rock star. There are lots of different ways to tell an opera story But, Verdi found a way to hit at the raw emotion. There are times that you can hear the music, without any singing, and just know what he and his characters are going through… what he wants you to feel. We even tried that theory out during rehearsal by going through the music without singing. It was just as powerfully emotive without its vocals.”
“Plain and simple,” says McMillion, “Verdi is exciting.”