‘Rigoletto’ Opera Strenuous Work for Performers

July 30, 2004

GIUSEPPE Verdi’s “Rigoletto” is a demandingrole for the opera star of the National LyricCompany’s production at the National Theater startingtonight.“ ‘Rigoletto’ is the role that every baritone dreamsof doing,” said the affable Guido LeBron, star of theopera, “but the physical demands are as great as thevocal ones. In order to portray a deformed hunchbacka great deal of physical dexterity is needed.”In fact, LeBron even works out daily at a nearbygym to maintain his stamina for the role in addition tohis weekly session with a vocal coach and trainingwith his teacher, Armand Boyagian. Boyagian, a well knownteacher, closed his New York-based studio, butcontinues to see LeBron privately as part of his regimento prepare his roles in the Italian vocal tradition.LeBron and Scott Piper, who starred in last year’s“Carmen,” lead the show while GenevieveChristianson sings as Gilda.The National Symphony Orchestra, conducted byGiancarlo Guerrero, and Alejandro Chacon will stagethe production. The opera’s costumes are borrowedfrom the Teatro Colón de Bogotá in Spain and the setshave been constructed in Costa Rica duplicating thedesigns from the overseas theater.VICTOR Hugo’s drama “Le Roi S’amuse” (Theking enjoys himself) debuted in Paris in November1832. After the first performance, censors suspendedthe production because of the performance’s depictionof royal profligacy. Although the text was published, astage performance in Paris was not possible for anotherhalf century (more than 30 years after the opera’spremiere).Verdi was enchanted with the possibilities of theplay as a libretto for his opera, but the censors inVenice objected on the same grounds as the French.The Venetian authorities complained that it was unfortunatethat Verdi had not chosen a more suitable fieldfor his talents than the “repulsive immorality andobscene triviality” of “La Maledizione” (The Curse, asthe opera had been tentatively titled). Patience anddiplomacy won out, and the director of La FeniceTheater and the director of public order in the City ofVenice agreed to the production after certain changeshad been made.The French King Francois I was changed to animaginary duke, the locale was switched from Franceto Mantua, but the characters were kept with only theirnames changed. The ruler is always referred to as IlDuca, and is purposely left unnamed although similaritiesexist to Vincenzo Gonzaga. Triboulet becameRigoletto, Blanche was renamed Gilda, the assassinSaltobadil became Sparafucile, and the father of Dianede Poitiers, Monsieur de Saint-Vallier becameMonterone in the opera.“Rigoletto” in its new form was first presented tothe public in 1851 and was an immediate success.The title role was written for Felice Varesi, afavorite singer of Verdi’s, and the creator of hisMacbeth four years earlier. It is generally consideredthe greatest part written for a high baritone.BARITONE LeBron has returned to Costa Ricato sing his fourth major role here (his debut was severalseasons ago in “Lucia di Lammermoor” and hehas also performed in “Tosca” and “Carmen” with theNational Lyric Company).Although this is the sixth production of“Rigoletto” he has done, these are the only performancesthis year of Verdi’s strenuous opera. In theautumn, LeBron makes his San Francisco debut in“Tosca” and then sings performances of “Fanciulladel West” in New York. “Valentin in Faust” roundsout the year in Tampa and then in early 2005 hereturns to the Washington Kennedy Center, again in“Tosca.”“The baritone vocal instrument doesn’t fullymature until he is in his mid-40s,” LeBron said.He is taking his time in adding other roles to hisrepertory that lie lower in his vocal range. He ispreparing “Amonasro in Aida” for 2007 and has tentativelyscheduled “Di Luna in Il Trovatore” as well. Helaughs as he recalls he was offered the latter role whenhe was 27, and turned it down as not being right forhim at that time. Now that he is approaching 40, theheavier roles can be added to his 25-role repertory.“Rigoletto” opens tonight at 7 p.m. at the NationalTheater (at Ave. 2, Ca. 3 and 5) and will show at 7p.m. on Aug. 1, 6, 8, 10 and 12. On Aug. 1 and 8 therewill also be a 5 p.m. showing.Tickets are on sale for ¢1,000-13,000 ($2.28-29.60) at the new box office, which is now located inthe main lobby of the theater. For more info, call 258-9505 or 222-8571.

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