Last night, the Montana Lyric Opera debuted its first semi-staged professional opera, Giuseppe Verdi's famous Rigoletto to a packed crowd at the University Theatre. The story of a womanizing Duke (Brandon McReynolds), the hunchbacked court jester, Rigoletto (Rob Barfield) and Rigoletto's jilted daughter Gilda (Monica Yunus) had the audience clapping enthusiastically after every aria.
The performance did encounter some technological difficulties. A third of the way through the second act, the subtitles—projected on the wall behind the singers—flickered and died. As staff tried to fix it, the projector continued to display distracting computer icons and blue screens from the laptop they were using. When it happened again, in the third act, people groaned—though staff fixed it immediately.
Despite these distractions, the audience seemed forgiving. All new endeavors experience growing pains, after all. In fact, there was something almost compelling about not having the crutch of subtitles for awhile. We were forced momentarily to sharpen our senses and focus on the singers as they sang in Italian, not knowing quite what they were saying but picking up clues by their gestures and emotions. And, of course, plot summaries in the program made it a bit easier to follow along.
In the end, it didn't matter much. What counted was that the orchestra and opera singers gave powerful performances, and when the last note died out and the lead characters took their bows, the audience jumped to their feet hooting and hollering.
The last performance of Rigoletto plays Saturday, Aug. 1, at 7:30 PM. $16/$22/$28.