March 06, 2019

Everyone Plays The Fool

Director E. Loren Meeker on Verdi's Rigoletto

There is no character in opera more powerfully dramatic than the court jester Rigoletto, whose acid tongue and all-consuming desire for revenge lead to catastrophe for himself and his sweet, sheltered, love-struck daughter Gilda. Rigoletto is one of Verdi's greatest characterizations — a complex and tragic figure, both pitiful and ferocious.

Rigoletto may have premiered in 1851, but its universal themes are what have made it a classic that stands the test of time. Director E. Loren Meeker is preparing to bring this riveting story and its unforgettable characters to life in a way that speaks with a relevant voice to today's audiences. Lyric's new-to-Chicago production won rave reviews in San Francisco earlier this year as a "sharply conceived and darkly atmospheric" show (San Francisco Chronicle), and international baritone (and Ryan Opera center alumni) Quinn Kelsey was praised far and wide for his portrayal of the tortured title character. Kelsey "commands the stage like a king...a masterful portrayal," raved the San Francisco Examiner. Kelsey leads a cast with enormous vocal and dramatic gifts, including Rosa Feola in her Lyric debut as Gilda and Matthew Polenzani (also a Ryan Opera Center alumni turned international star) as the Duke of Mantua. 

Meet Director E. Loren Meeker as she shares some of why Rigoletto is absolutely of this time and age — and what makes it a must-see of the new season.marks the first time baritone 
Quinn Kelsey and tenor Matthew Polenzani have starred together in a Lyric production. These Ryan Opera Center alumni are highly sought after worldwide, and they cherish their ongoing association with Lyric.

Matthew hails from the greater Chicago area – born in Evanston, raised mainly in Wilmette. Although now living in Pelham, New York, he still feels connected to Chicago, whether it comes to family, good friends, or sports teams. He’s also always sensed that the Chicago audience has been able to feel what he’s feeling onstage in a special, personal way.

Rigoletto is somewhat of a departure for Matthew – he isn’t playing the good guy! Instead he’s the Duke of Mantua, opera’s ultimate cad, although, surprisingly, in Act Two Verdi does give the Duke a sweetly soulful aria. Matthew, who seeks out the humanity in all his characters, considers that soliloquy “some of the best music Verdi ever wrote.” And as for the Duke’s “La donna è mobile,” one of the most famous arias in any opera, “People love it – I love it! And why not? Because it’s fun and it ends on a high note!”

Lyric presentation of Verdi’s Rigoletto generously made possible by

Julie and Roger Baskes

Howard L. Gottlieb and Barbara G. Greis

Candy and Gary Ridgway

Roberta L. and Robert J. Washlow

Production owned by San Francisco Opera.

Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera