Second Cast of 'Rigoletto' Proves to Be First-Rate

Thursday, April 3, 2008

The second cast of Washington National Opera's new production of Verdi's "Rigoletto" included Alexey Dolgov, making his North American debut. On Tuesday night, the Russian tenor was a dashing Duke of Mantua, the doppelganger of that other operatic libertine, Don Giovanni. Angry fathers of former sexual conquests curse both seducers, but the Duke suffers no actual retribution. Dolgov captured the Duke's arrogant charm, although a nervous tendency to rush kept conductor Giovanni Reggioli on his toes. The voice has a ringing, heroic tone, with a bold top. Like many Russian tenors, the throaty placement limits Dolgov's ability to reduce the sound effectively. Fortunately, this role does not require much subtlety.

Stepping in as Gilda was JiYoung Lee, a former Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist who was the second-cast Marie in "La Fille du R�giment" last spring. The Korean soprano was angelic, with radiant sound in the aria "Caro nome's" high pianissimos and impressive pyrotechnic control.

After recent turns as Porgy and Alberich, has baritone Gordon Hawkins had enough of limping? He was a more playful Rigoletto than his first-cast counterpart, delighting in the jester's buffo antics in the first act. Although the edge of his voice was slightly duller, Hawkins found the hunchback's vulnerable core -- not without some overacting but still eliciting a more sympathetic frisson at his tragic fate.

The rest of the cast, pulling double duty, sang with impressive stamina, considering that they had also performed the previous evening.

The second cast will perform again on Tuesday and April 13.

-- Charles T. Downey

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