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Music Review: Sarasota Opera's Fall Season

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  • | 4:00 a.m. October 24, 2012
Soprano Eleni Calenos as Gilda and baritone Marco Nistico as the cursed jester in "Rigoletto." Photo by Rod Millington.
Soprano Eleni Calenos as Gilda and baritone Marco Nistico as the cursed jester in "Rigoletto." Photo by Rod Millington.
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Sarasota Opera is about to open its fall season and it’s doing it with a pair of operas — one old and one new.

First comes Verdi’s “Rigoletto,” a cherished favorite with audiences, that hasn’t been seen here since the Opera House was renovated and re-opened in 2008. This is a work that fairly ripples with melodies that have become household standards. In fact, legend has it that Verdi wrote the immediately famous and tuneful “La donna e mobile” but was afraid to give it to the tenor until the day of the world premiere because he knew it would leak out to the general population and be heard on street corners and in gondolas before the curtain went up. Legend isn’t always right, but it makes a great story!

“Rigoletto” is all about a curse — la maledizione — and how that curse becomes the bane and tribulation of the bitter court jester, Rigoletto, and his beautiful and trusting daughter, Gilda.

In this production of the well-known Verdi masterpiece, Sarasota Opera is bringing back Marco Nistico, who’s been heard here as Figaro and Sharpless, to take the title role. The brilliant young mezzo, Heather Johnson (heard in past years as a sparkling Cinderella and a dramatic Elizabeth Proctor), tenor Hak Soo Kim (also seen in “La Cenerentola”) and the popular bass, Young Bok Kim, will be appearing in this production, and the Greek soprano Eleni Calenos will make her Sarasota Opera debut as Gilda, Rigoletto’s ill-fated daughter.

The Sarasota Orchestra, taking a rest from center-stage and moving into the orchestra pit, will be led by Artistic Director Victor deRenzi.

The company’s Youth Opera is presenting the world premiere of “Little Nemo in Slumberland,” a commission with music by Daron Hagen and words by J.D. McClatchy. Don’t do as I first did and think this is an operatic version of Disney’s “Finding Nemo,” a fish of an entirely different stripe. This story is based on Winsor McCay’s turn-of-the-century comic strip, “Little Nemo” and recounts the little boy’s adventures with giants, enchantresses, balloons and topsy-turvy castles.

The lucky kids in the Sarasota Youth Opera will sing the roles of the children and members of the company’s Apprentice and Studio programs will take on the adult parts. Technically, the production is using a new scenic-projection type of equipment, which originated at the University of Kentucky and has been used by The Atlanta Opera, called SCRIBE: Self-Contained Rapidly Integratable Background Environment. We’re told it’s an innovation in video scenery!

“Rigoletto” will have six performances starting Friday, Oct. 26, and “Little Nemo in Slumberland” will be performed Nov. 10 and Nov. 11. Both operas will have subtitles so you’ll know exactly what’s happening.


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