Last night I attended the San Francisco Opera's Rigoletto with the second cast: Marco Vratogna as Rigoletto, Albina Shagimuratova as Gilda and Arturo Chacón-Cruz as The Duke of Mantua.
Vritogna is the same guy who sang Iago in 2009. I thought his voice was a bit light for Verdi then, and I almost still do now. Looking at his performance history, professionals in the business don't seem to share this opinion. He sings a lot of Verdi. Rigoletto is considered early middle Verdi, almost bel canto, and can be sung lighter than Otello. Vritogna was the best of the cast, and when the role called for him to rise, he rose to meet it. His "Cortigiani" was conducted a bit fast by Maestro Luisotti, but was intense and lyrical nevertheless. As a human being, Rigoletto is a mess. He already hated his boss before the deflowering of his daughter, but deep down inside he is very warm and sweet. We saw this in this performance.
Shagimuratova was Queen of the Night in the recent Flute. I liked her a lot more as Gilda. Perhaps a curvy softness fits her character better than the sharp corners of Queen. The tenor was ok, I guess. My friend liked him. I thought he sounded muffled. The chorus was terrific.
I put in this picture of the staging so you can see the low stimulus nature of the sets and costumes. Roman arches. Occasional patches of color. That's it. The acting was also very low stimulus. Lots of standing around doing nothing. I've been watching Eurotrash a lot lately, and they keep everyone pretty busy and the sets quite messy. They are going for high stimulus, low cost.
Something odd is going on at the San Francisco Opera. Until September 29 nothing is playing except Rigoletto. After that it gradually evolves back into the normal style for a repertory house, which is what the San Francisco Opera has always been.
It is important to know there were a lot of empty seats.