A catchy genius

. May 17, 2012.

A recent study found that women tend to remember things better when said to them by men with low voices rather than by men with higher voices. That may be true in general, but not in opera. The glamour boys of opera are the tenors. Ever hear of The Three Basses, or The Three Baritones? Me neither.

When the Ann Arbor Symphony performs their concert version of Verdi’s Rigoletto at the Michigan Theater on Saturday, November 12, we’ll get to hear one of the most famous tenor arias in the operatic repertoire, a piece familiar to even those who’ve never heard of Rigoletto. Legend has it that composer Giuseppe Verdi did not show his tenor the music for La donna è mobile (Woman is fickle), until the day of the premiere, fearing—correctly as it turned out—that the memorable melody would soon be sung by every gondolier in Venice. (The song has continued to be evergreen, and has been performed, and parodied, in countless movies, TV shows, and even appears in Chekhov’s Three Sisters.)

But there is much more to Rigoletto than this famous canzone. The opening tenor aria, Questa o quella, (This woman or that) is nearly as well known, as is the soprano aria, Caro nome, (“Dearest name”). Verdi’s genius for lyrical, evocative melodies and lush orchestrations is evident in every measure of Rigoletto and, one hundred and sixty years after it debuted, it remains one of the warhorses in the operatic stable, beloved by singers and audiences alike.

The A2SO’s Rigoletto will also be a premiere of sorts. “Every couple of seasons the A2SO performs either excerpts from, or a complete opera,” says Maestro Arie Lipsky, the A2SO’s Musical Director, “But I am really looking forward to conducting my first Rigoletto.”

The A2SO is bringing in a remarkable quartet to sing with the orchestra. Vale Rideout will sing the quintessential tenor arias in Ann Arbor between appearances this season at Carnegie Hall, and with famed conductor Lorin Maazel. Soprano Sarah Hibbard will portray the innocent Gilda, having recently appeared with the New York Philharmonic, while soprano Lauren Skuce comes here after singing in Hong Kong and at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Chicago baritone, Tom Hall will take on the title role of the tragic Rigoletto.

Serving as narrator will be Stephen West, Professor of Music at The University of Michigan. Although he’ll have a speaking role in this production, West is a well-known, well-traveled singer, having appeared with the Metropolitan Opera in New York, the Teatro alla Scala in Italy and many others. Oh, and he’s a bass-baritone, so the ladies—and gents—in attendance will remember everything he says. $27-$55. www.a2so.com.  

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