Verdi's Rigoletto

Friday, January 26, 2018 at 7:30pm & Sunday, January 28, 2018 at 2pm

Student Night at the Opera Performance on Wednesday, January 24, 2018 at 7pm

The Historic Valentine Theatre - Conducted by James Meena

Giuseppe Verdi’s tragic masterpiece returns to Toledo Opera after a ten-year absence. The court jester Rigoletto is happy to aid the amorous Duke in his seductions until the Duke turns his attention to Rigoletto’s own daughter, but vengeance proves a curse. James Meena will conduct an acclaimed international cast, the Toledo Symphony Orchestra, and the Toledo Opera Chorus.


At his palace, the Duke boasts of his way with women. He flirts with the wife of Ceprano, one of his courtiers, while Rigoletto, the Duke’s hunchbacked jester, mocks the enraged husband. Marullo, another one of the Duke’s courtiers, bursts in with the latest court gossip: Rigoletto is keeping a young mistress at his place. Unaware of this, Rigoletto continues to taunt Ceprano, who plots with the others to punish Rigoletto for his insults. Monterone, a nobleman, forces his way into the crowd to denounce the Duke for seducing his daughter and is viciously ridiculed by Rigoletto. Monterone is arrested and places a curse on Rigoletto. 

Rigoletto is disturbed by Monterone’s curse. He encounters Sparafucile, an assassin, who offers his services. Rigoletto reflects that his own tongue is as sharp as the murderer’s knife. Arriving at home, he warmly greets his daughter, Gilda. Fearing for the girl’s safety, he warns her nurse, Giovanna, not to let anyone in. When Rigoletto leaves, the Duke appears and bribes Giovanna, who lets him see Gilda whom he’s seen in church. He declares his love for her and tells her he is a poor student. After he has left, Gilda tenderly reflects on her newfound love. The Duke’s entourage gathers nearby, intending to abduct Rigoletto’s “mistress.” When Rigoletto arrives, surprising them, they convince him they are abducting the Countess Ceprano and enlist his aid in their scheme. Successfully deceiving Rigoletto, they kidnap Gilda. When Rigoletto discovers that his daughter has been taken, he collapses as he remembers Monterone’s curse.



The Duke, having returned to Rigoletto’s house expecting to complete his conquest of Gilda, has found the house deserted. Distraught, he expresses, for a moment, a tenderness for the young girl. When his entourage returns and tells him the story of how they abducted a girl from Rigoletto’s house and left her in the Duke’s bedroom, he realizes it is Gilda and hurries off to her. Rigoletto enters, looking for Gilda. The entourage is astonished to find out that she is his daughter rather than his mistress, but they prevent him from storming into the Duke’s bedroom. Rigoletto violently denounces them for their cruelty, then asks for compassion. Gilda exits the Duke’s room. She tells Rigoletto of the Duke’s courtship, her abduction, and her deflowering by the Duke. Monterone is brought in to be killed by the Duke’s men, and Rigoletto swears that both he and the nobleman will be avenged. Gilda begs her father to forgive the Duke.


Rigoletto brings Gilda to a seedy pub on the outskirts of town where Sparafucile and his sister Maddalena live. The Duke appears, and Gilda and Rigoletto watch him through the window as he amuses himself with Maddalena. Rigoletto tells his distraught daughter to leave town disguised as a man and, after she leaves, pays Sparafucile to murder the Duke. Gilda returns to overhear Maddalena urge her brother to spare the Duke and kill Rigoletto instead. Sparafucile refuses but agrees to kill the next person to arrive at the pub, so that he will be able to produce a dead body for Rigoletto. Gilda decides to sacrifice herself for the Duke. Her plan succeeds and Sparafucile and Maddalena put her body in a sack. Rigoletto returns, and assuming the body is the corpse of the Duke, gloats over his revenge. But when he hears the Duke singing inside the pub, he realizes he has been duped. He quickly removes the hood covering the head of the body in the sack and is horrified to find it has been masking the identity of his dying daughter. Gilda dies asking her father’s forgiveness and Rigoletto realizes Monterone’s curse has been fulfilled.


Magali Simard Galdès (Gilda)

Canadian soprano Magali Simard-Galdes began studying music at the age of four when she started playing the violin. Promised to a career in medicine, she decided to follow her passion and pursue a career in music. Three time first prize winner of Canadian Music Competition and regional finalist of the Metropolitan Opera Council Auditions, she made her international debut in the role of Nicette (Le Pré aux Clercs) at the Wexford Festival Opera. During the 2016-17 season, Ms. Simard-Galdès made her debut at the Opéra de Montréal in the role of Sister Constance (Dialogues des Carmélites) and sang the soprano part in Mozart’s Great Mass in C minor and Éve in Dubois’ Le paradis perdu. She most recently appeared as Roxanne in DiChiera’s Cyrano with Opera Carolina.

Anooshah Golesorkhi (Rigoletto)

Anooshah Golesorkhi has achieved renown as a charismatic and forceful interpreter of the most demanding baritone roles with the world’s leading opera companies. In North America, he has appeared with the Metropolitan Opera as Amonasro (Aida) and Alfio (Cavalleria Rusticana), San Francisco Opera as Shaklovity (Khovanshchina), and in the title role of Arshak II and as Ezio (Attila) at Carnegie Hall. Mr. Golesorkhi has also sung at most of the major European houses including the Vienna State Opera (Alfio); the Deutsche Oper Berlin as Rigoletto, Nabucco, Alfio, and Amonasro; Hamburg State Opera as Macbeth; Leipzig Opera as Nabucco, Germont, and Tonio; Stuttgart Opera as Scarpia; the Rome Opera on tour to Japan as Rigoletto and in Rome as Jochannan, Iago, and as Jack Rance in La Fanciulla del West.

Raffaele Abete (Duke)

As the winner of the competition “Una voce per l’Arena,” Italian tenor Raffaele Abete made his debut at the Arena di Verona as Ismaele in Verdi’s Nabucco in the summer of 2015. His other recent engagements include Romeo in Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette on opening night of Arena di Verona’s 93rd Lyric season, Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni and Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor at Teatro Gaetano Donizetti in Bergamo, and Rodolfo in La bohème at Teatro Filarmonico di Verona. Mr. Abete’s upcoming engagements include Rigoletto at Teatro Filarmonico di Verona. Born in Naples in 1984, Mr. Abete studied at the Conservatorio di Musica Domenico Cimarosa in Avellino, under the guidance of Maestro Pasquale Tizzani. He currently resides in Milan and studies with Maestro Antonio Lemmo. 

Matthew Curran (Sparafucile)

Bass Matthew Curran’s operatic repertoire includes Filippo (Don Carlo), Sarastro (Die Zauberflöte), Oroveso (Norma), Frère Laurent (Roméo et Juliette), and Colline (La Bohème). His 2016-2017 engagements include Orbazzano (Tancredi) with Baltimore Concert Opera and Opera Southwest, a debut with Odyssey Opera to sing Basil in Lowell Liebermann’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, Terry in the New York premiere of Breaking the Waves, by Missy Mazzoli and Royce Vavrek, and Thomas Betterton in the NY premiere of Carlisle Floyd’s Prince of Players. Handel’s Messiah brings him to Prescott, Arizona, and he returns to Duke University Chapel to sing Jesus in Bach’s St. John Passion. The 2015-2016 season included the role of Ramfis (Aida) at both Opera Southwest and Baltimore Concert Opera, Don Iñigo Gomez (L’Heure Espagnole) with Opera Memphis, and Pistola (Falstaff) with Opera Delaware.

Leyla Martinucci (Maddalena)

Mezzosoprano Leyla Martinucci recently appeared as Lola in Il Cavalleria Rusticana, Maestra delle Novizie in Suor Angelica, and Flora in La traviata for Miami Lyric Opera and in critically acclaimed performances of Il Barbiere di Siviglia at the Teatro Vittorio Emanuele in Noto, Italy. In 2015, she was invited to sing with the Wuhan Philarmonic Orchestra in China to sing Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater, conducted by Stefano Vignati, for the Opening night of the Festival Barocco, and at the opening night of the Veneto Festival with I Solisti Veneti in the Mozart Requiem and Albinoni’s Magnificat under the baton of Claudio Scimone. She also sang La Gloria for the World premier of Vivalidi’s La Gloria e Imeneo at Villa Manin in Udine with La Fenice Orchestra. She currently studies with the renowned Mezzosoprano Luciana D'Intino.

Ashraf Sewailam (Monterone)

The New York Times hailed Ashraf Sewailam’s début at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall as a “stand out performance” and Opera News described his voice as “purring and velvety with an easily produced Ramfis-like top range with a majestic tone,” and his stage presence as “strong, mysterious and with mesmerizing intensity.” This season, Mr. Sewailam performs the roles of Mustafa in L’italiana in Algeri with Portland Opera, Alidoro in La Cenerentola with San Diego Opera, and Basilio in Il barbiere di Siviglia with Opera San Antonio. Recently, in his début with New Zealand Opera as the assassin Sparafucile in Rigoletto, he was described as “hard to better, both vocally and dramatically.” He subsequently returned to sing Alidoro in La Cenerentola, which he later performed for Queensland Opera. Ashraf made his United States début in 2004 with Opera Colorado performing the role of Leporello in Don Giovanni.  Quickly becoming a house favorite, he subsequently performed there as Count Ceprano in Rigoletto, Bartolo in Le nozze di Figaro, Basilio in Il barbiere di Siviglia, and King in Aïda.

James Meena, conductor

Toledo Opera’s principal artistic advisor consistently earns critical acclaim for his artistic vision and dynamic presence on the podium.  Mo. Meena¹s guest conducting engagements have included the Washington Opera; the Pittsburgh Opera; L’Opera de Montreal; Michigan Opera Theater; Arizona Opera; the KBS Symphony Orchestra in Seoul, South Korea; the National Symphony Orchestra of the Republic of China; the Pittsburgh Symphony; the Cairo Philharmonic in Egypt; the Grand Rapids Symphony; the Toledo Symphony; the Orchestra of the Teatro Massimo Bellini in Sicily; and, the Orchestra Regionale Toscana in Florence, Italy.  This season, he opened the New York City Opera season with the historic double bill of Rachmaninov’s Aleko and Pagliacci, as well as his Memphis Symphony Classics debut, and his return to L’Opera de Montreal for La Bohème.  For more than a decade, he was principal conductor for the Toledo Opera, resident conductor of the Toledo Symphony, and conductor for the Cleveland/San Jose Ballet.  Mo. Meena has conducted legendary singers Renee Fleming, Denyce Graves, James McCracken, Diana Soviero, Mignon Dunn, Marilyn Horne, Sherril Milnes, Jerome Hines, and Marcello Giordani.


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