Category Archive for: ‘David Hirzel’

Rigoletto in the Ballpark

For those of us who are not opera purists, and by the 30,000+ turnout at San Francisco’s ATT+T Park September 16, I suspect there are a whole lot of us, this venue has got to be the best way to enjoy Verdi’s Rigoletto.  If you remembered to leave home with enough layers to keep you warm as the evening rolls along, you will find that there are no bad seats.  From the lawn (outfield) below to the upper deck, everyone has a good view of a BIG screen with excellent video graphics coupled with distortion-free amplified sound to carry the music to your ears.  Before each act a written synopsis appears briefly, to get you oriented to what’s about to happen, and much (not all) of the singing is subtitled.  Not that you need to read to enjoy such phenomenal singing, but it helps to keep you oriented to the players and the action onscreen: lust, treachery, tender love, betrayal, murder.

Such is Rigoletto.  The title character (Zeljko Lucic) is a jester to the Duke’s court, but he has a serious side, and a secret daughter, and it is on this Gilda (Aleksandra Kurzak) whom he dotes, and the depth and breadth of their relationship is the heart of the story.  It is in their tender moments together that the real value of this ballpark opera house makes itself known.  The big screen focuses on their faces, their eyes and lips, the bond they share, while their voices intertwine in music of marvelous beauty.  This passionate actress makes the show, lovely to behold and hear, a perfect match to her burly father’s abiding love.

The staging is a simple wonder.  Vertical panels angling into the distance do multiple duty, serving as the brilliant court or a dark alley or Verona’s empty square during a violent storm, with just a change of light and color.  A similarly undecorated room slides into view, and it changes into house, an inn, a bedroom with barred windows, again with just lighting and the most minimal of props.  The primary colors used—red, yellow, blue-gray—set the scenes so well that nothing more is needed.

Altogether, what a show!  Here’s how it works.  This is a simulcast of the live performance onstage at the SF War Memorial Opera House.  At the conclusion of the show, when the cast came on for their (well-deserved) applause, each was bearing or wearing a bit of Giants fan-gear: a big orange We’re Number One, a baseball bat, a black beard—a special nod to those of use in the stands.  It’s free, and this night at the opera in the ballpark comes but once a year in the fall, so look for it in 2013 and don’t miss it.  Special treat for those coming from Marin:  get the special opera ferry at Larkspur, straight to McCovey Cove.  But don’t forget to print out your online reservation, or you won’t get home by ferry later that night.

Review by David Hirzel


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