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Classical 101

Opera Project Columbus Presents 'Rigoletto'

Opera Project Columbus Rigoletto - June 7 at 7:30pm, June 9 at 3pm at the Southern Theatre
Opera Project Columbus
Opera Project will perform the Giuseppe Verdi opera Rigoletto this weekend at the Southern Theatre

I first heard Verdi’s opera Rigoletto on a record I got from the library in my hometown, over fifty years ago.

The first performance of Rigoletto I remember was a broadcast from the Metropolitan Opera on December 7, 1968, a few days after my 12th birthday.

Carlo Bergonzi, who became my favorite tenor, sang the Duke. Anna Moffo, the most beautiful soprano in the world, out of Wayne, Pennsylvania was Gilda. The great baritone Robert Merrill sang the title role. What was not to love?  I loved it all.

All of this by way of telling you not to miss Opera Project Columbus's production of Rigoletto at the Southern Theater on June 7 and 9.

Thirty years later a friend sent me a recording of this broadcast. I was afraid to listen to it.  Would I be disappointed in the performance that meant so much to me? I listened again, in the 1998. I was thrilled.

I have an emotional connection to Verdi’s opera about a court jester at the mercy of a licentious nobleman. Probably because that 1968 broadcast was the first “live performance” I remember.

I had heard the Red Sox, the Celtics and especially the Boston Bruins being cheered on TV and radio. Hearing the Met audience yelling and the crying Bravo! over the air was something else. When announcer Milton Cross intoned, “Miss Moffo is lovely in her blue dress—and those cheers are for our own Robert Merrill, wearing his jester’s cap” I became hooked on radio forever.

For Opera Project Columbus's production of Rigoletto, Alessandro Siciliani is back on the podium where he bloody well belongs. Rigoletto needs a conductor who has not only the music but also the language in his bones. Siciliani has elevated Opera Project Columbus from local gem to national player.

Robert Kerr sings Rigoletto for OPC. Forget objectivity. I’m an unabashed fan. I have always loved this man’s voice and full disclosure I think the world of him as a person. I have always wanted Rob to have the career that supports his family in great style.

His singing makes this cynical Irishman teary. I heard Robert Merrill as Rigoletto. I heard Cornell MacNeil and Sherrill Milnes (what is it with the letter ‘M’ and American baritones?) You should go to this performance so that you can tell your grandchildren you heard Robert Kerr.

Here's Rob rehearsing Puccini's Gianni Schicchi a few years ago. Blurry to see a but you can hear his wonderful voice:

Opera Project Columbus has asked A. Scott Parry to stage Rigoletto. An alumnus us of the New York City Opera, Parry runs the Opera- Music Theatre department at The Ohio State University. 

Many directors today don’t trust, or understand Verdi’s or Mozart’s or Puccini’s intentions. Parry does. He is a masterful storyteller.

Parry knows how to create stage pictures and situations that tell Verdi’s story, and Victor Hugo’s story-(Hugo’s play Le roi s'amuseThe King Amueses Himself is the source for Rigoletto.)

Opera Project Columbus has become the go to company for top quality stage productions, conducted by the real deal.

Bring your friends to Rigoletto. You’ll recognize a lot of the tunes  - Verdi knew what he was doing - and you’ll be enthralled by the context. Siciliani's conducting will be completely authentic. Rob Kerr will knock your socks off.

Christopher Purdy is Classical 101's early morning host, 7-10 a.m. weekdays. He is host and producer of Front Row Center – Classical 101’s weekly celebration of Opera and more – as well as Music in Mid-Ohio, Concerts at Ohio State, and the Columbus Symphony broadcast series. He is the regular pre-concert speaker for Columbus Symphony performances in the Ohio Theater.