Maestro Victor DeRenzi, who recently celebrated his 30th anniversary as artistic director of Sarasota Opera, has brought back a favorite story and performer to kick off the fall season.
Giuseppe Verdi's "Rigoletto," based on Victor Hugo's play "Le Roi s'Amuse," was the first opera performed in the newly renovated Sarasota Opera House when it reopened in 2008. "Rigoletto" returns to the same stately venue Friday and will run through Nov. 12.
Italian born baritone Marco Nisticò, a Sarasota favorite since 2008 when he debuted as Figaro in "Il Barbiere di Siviglia," and who was most recently seen as the Consul Sharpless in last fall's "Madama Butterfly," will make his role debut as the titular court jester.
Sarasota audiences will also know Nisticò, who lives near DeRenzi in Manhattan, from his performances in four other Verdi operas: Giacomo in "Giovanna d'Arco" (Winter 2010), Giorgio Germont in "La Traviata" (Fall 2009), Rodrigue in "Don Carlos" (Winter 2009) and Francisco Foscari in "I due Foscari" (Winter 2008).
"Maestro DeRenzi has given wonderful roles throughout the years," Nisticò said while in between rehearsals in Sarasota.
"My first Verdi role was here
and it was an incredible experience."
As for "Rigoletto," soprano Maria D'Amato, Desdemona in last season's "Otello," will sing the innocent jester's daughter Gilda.
Mezzo-soprano Heather Johnson and tenor Hak Soo Kim, both appeared in the recent production of "La Cenerentola," will make their respective role debuts as the sexy Maddalena and the dirty old man Duke of Mantua.
"Rigoletto" follows the hunchbacked jester as he tries to protect Gilda from bad boys only to learn she's in love with the deceitful Duke.
The opera teems with seduction, betrayal, curses, vendettas and a paid assassin, ending in the tragic death of the vengeful Rigoletto's daughter Gilda.
"He's a very complex character so it's a very human character," Nisticò said of Rigoletto. "He appears in the beginning to be mean as he manipulates the court to be against each other, but then you see him in a completely different light with his daughter."
The fall season marks the start for Richard Russell as the new executive director of Sarasota Opera, effective Nov. 1. He was Sarasota Opera's director of marketing from 2005 to 2010 and spent the past three seasons as General Director of Opera New Jersey in Princeton.
"I have known Richard for many years, as a musician and administrator," DeRenzi said in a statement.
"Richard understands and believes in Sarasota Opera's mission. He is respected by our staff, patrons and supporters who know him. Richard's combination of artistic and business knowledge as well as his integrity will be invaluable to Sarasota Opera and our community."
Susan Danis, longtime executive director of the Sarasota Opera, was recently appointed general director and chief executive officer of Florida Grand Opera.
Wade Tatangelo, features writer, can be reached at 941-745-7057. Follow Twitter.com/wtatangelo.