Leave it to Giuseppe Verdi to take Victor Hugo's tale of a cursed hunchback and turn it into a 2 1/2-hour opera with beautiful arias, an orchestrated storm and hapless murder.
Leave it to Teatro Lirico D'Europa to fill the roles with singers that elevate Verdi's music and cause the audience to leap to its feet.
"Rigoletto," staged Sunday night at the Lied Center with a full orchestra, contained all the elements of grand opera: a hero with flaws, a maiden done wrong, a long death scene, a majestic set, period costumes, a deep baritone, a strong tenor and, of course, a sailing soprano.
Kenneithia Mitchell, a young American singer who has won numerous competitions, played Gilda, Rigoletto's doomed daughter. When she entered the stage during the last half of Act I and began singing the aria, the stage suddenly brightened and the opera's action quickened. The emotion of her voice seemed to be a catalyst for all things that followed.
Roumen Doykov, who played the Duke of Mantua, won over the audience with a solo about the less-than-honorable qualities of women Â ironically, while the Duke was betraying Gilda. Doykov's powerful tenor was unwavering.
Nicolay Dobrev, who played the title character, also earned the audience's respect with his voluminous voice. Verdi paints Rigoletto as being disfigured in disposition and body, but Dobrev is able to show Rigoletto's vulnerability during a solo in which he begs the courtiers to return his kidnapped daughter.
At its core, Verdi's "Rigoletto" is a commentary about the decadence of society and the consequences of our decisions. Rigoletto pays the price for his association with the degenerate Duke. He loses Gilda, the part of him that contains his soul and heart Â a lesson as relevant today as in the 19th century.