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Bob Keyes

Bob Keyes has written about the arts in Maine since 2002. He’s never been much an artist himself, other than singing in junior high school chorus and acting in a few musicals. But he’s attended museums, theaters, clubs and concert halls all his life, and cites Bob Dylan as most influential artist of any kind since Picasso. He lives in Berwick.

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Posted: July 24, 2014

9 things you should know about PORTopera’s “Rigoletto” on stage this week

Emerging voices, familiar melodies, and a modern setting mark this production in Portland.

Written by: Bob Keyes
Rehearsal of "Rigoletto" at Merrill Auditorium in Portland during a scene with Hae Ji Chang as Gilda and Anthony Kalil as The Duke. John Patriquin/staff photo

Rehearsal of “Rigoletto” at Merrill Auditorium in Portland during a scene with Hae Ji Chang as Gilda and Anthony Kalil as The Duke. John Patriquin/staff photo

PORTopera presents its two-performance run of Giuseppe Verdi’s “Rigoletto” at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Friday at Merrill Auditorium in Portland. The performances mark the 20th season for PORTopera.

Here are nine things you should know about the story, the performers and the opera company:

1. What’s “Rigoletto” about?

“Rigoletto” tells the story of the Duke of Mantua, his buddy Rigoletto and Rigoletto’s daughter, Gilda. It’s set in 20th-century America, though it will be performed in Italian with English supertitles. The storyline is not unlike a mainstream TV show, with murder, intrigue and deception – and a lot of beautiful singing. ” ‘Rigoletto’ is the story of a man’s love for his daughter and the futility of that love’s power when confronted with the inevitability of fate,” said artistic director Dona D. Vaughn. “It is an opera about lust, power and revenge.”

2. Who will we hear sing? Anybody famous?

PORTopera hires singers from around the world, based on auditions in New York and the recommendations of Vaughn and her artistic team. Generally, the company taps the talent pool of emerging opera singers. Soprano Hae Ji Chang sings the role of Gilda. She made her debut with the Metropolitan Opera in “Turandot” last year. She is a favorite of guest conductor Stephen Lord.

Anthony Kalil plays the Duke. He was named to the Met’s young artist development program in 2012, and this season made his debut with the Met.

Soloman Howard is a member of the Washington National Opera’s young artist program, and sang the role of the king in “Aida” at the Met. This is his second time with PORTopera, having appeared previously in “La Boheme.”

Christin-Marie Hill appears as Maddalena. She has sung with the Arkansas Symphony and Minnesota Opera, among others.

3. This opera is sung in Italian. What other languages are performers expected to sing?

Singers must be prepared to sing in four languages: English, French, Italian and German, but their opportunities will be wider if they can sing in Russian and Czech. Most singers do not speak the languages, but study diction. “When singing in Europe, it is of great advantage to the singer to be able to converse in a country’s native language,” Vaughn said.

4. Are the supertitles literal translations?

Yes, and they’ve been modified to be more clearly understood by modern audiences. PORTopera’s supertitles are translated by Sonja Friedman, who also does supertitles for the Met.

5. How long is the opera?

It is performed in three acts with one intermission. The total performance time, including intermission, is two hours and 15 minutes.

6. Where do the sets and costumes come from?

PORTopera owns the set, and costumes are both created for the individual performers and rented.

7. What are the key musical moments?

The most famous moment is the aria “La Donna e Mobile,” sung by the duke, It is a showcase for tenors, and was said to have been rehearsed under great secrecy before the opera’s debut in Venice in 1851. After the aria became public, gondoliers in Venice were singing it. The music from this opera has permeated pop culture, and is used in cartoons and commercials.

8. Who is conducting?

Stephen Lord is back, having conducted with PORTopera most recently in 2012 for “Madama Butterfly.” Opera News named him one of the 25 most powerful names in U.S. opera. He has a house in Maine – and is glad to be back. He spent last year in Santa Fe, New Mexico, “which, while pretty, is not Maine,” he noted.

9. Who is in the orchestra?

Many of the musicians are members of the Maine music community, including the Portland Symphony Orchestra, the University of Southern Maine and other ensembles.

PORTopera’s “Rigoletto”

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 23, and Friday, June 25

WHERE: Merrill Auditorium, 20 Myrtle St., Portland

HOW MUCH: $41 to $105, available through Merrill box office, PortTix or 842-0800


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