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A Ringing Curse, a Loss of Innocence, and a Father’s Bitter Revenge Provide the Perfect Dose of Drama as Dayton Opera Presents Verdi’s Rigoletto

DAYTON, OH (October 22, 2018) – On Friday, November 9, 2018 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, November 11, 2018 at 3 p.m. in the Mead Theatre of the Schuster Center, Dayton Opera, under the leadership of Artistic Director Thomas Bankston, will present Verdi’s heart-wrenching drama Rigoletto. Principal Sponsor for this production is the ELM Foundation.

A ringing curse ignites this gripping tale of lost innocence and a father’s bitter revenge. Verdi was so electrified by Victor Hugo’s controversial story that he composed Rigoletto at white-hot speed. “The subject is grand, immense, and there is a character that is one of the greatest creations that the theatre can boast of, in any country and in all history,” he wrote his librettist. “…it came to me like a flash of lightning, an inspiration, and I said to myself…Yes, by God, this one can’t go wrong,” he informed his publisher a few days later.

In this beloved work, audiences will meet one of Verdi’s most vivid characters: Rigoletto, a hunchbacked jester who earns his living by amusing the lascivious Duke of Mantua. When he mocks the anguish of a father whose daughter is a victim of the Duke, the grieving father curses Rigoletto, setting into motion this tragic tale of love, remorse, and revenge, and showcasing some of opera’s greatest hits. It is no wonder that Rigoletto is consistently in the top ten most-produced operas in the world.

Performing the title role in this production is baritone Grant Youngblood, who returns to Dayton Opera for his sixth appearance. He was last seen on stage at the Schuster Center as the villain Iago in the 2016 production of Otello. Hailed as a tall, dashing baritone “with a robust sound with ringing top notes,” Grant Youngblood reprises this title role that he has begun to master, having performed as Verdi’s hunchbacked court jester with several opera companies across the country in the last few years.

Dayton Opera is thrilled to welcome back soprano Jennifer Cherest to the Mead Theatre in the role of Rigoletto’s innocent daughter Gilda. Jennifer was last with Dayton Opera as a 2011-2012 Artist-in-Residence, during which time she performed the role of Micaëla in Dayton Opera’s 2012 production of The Tragedy of Carmen. Since that time, she has gone on to perform in soprano roles with opera companies from San Francisco to Washington, D.C. The San Francisco Chronicle has praised her as being “beautifully expressive and technically polished,” and Dayton Opera is excited to have her back for this production.

Making his Dayton Opera debut as the callous womanizer, the Duke of Mantua, is tenor Joshua Dennis. Joshua is a former Apprentice Artist at the renowned Santa Fe Opera, and he has since been rising quickly on the opera scene, with roles in productions from Minnesota Opera to New Orleans, and a role with the Metropolitan Opera for its recent production of Così fan tutte. The Minneapolis Star Tribune praises his performances, exclaiming, “he made his sincerity believable, and his voice, a robust tenor with baritonal heft, rose to the high climaxes with ringing, ardent bravado.”

Also making her Dayton Opera debut is mezzo-soprano Kathleen Felty in the role of Maddalena. Kathleen is a fellow with the A.J. Fletcher Opera Institute, pursuing a Master of Music in Vocal Performance. In 2016, she competed in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, where she was awarded New Mexico District Winner. The past summer, Kathleen was also a member of the prestigious Apprentice Program for Singers of the Santa Fe Opera.

Last season, bass Harold Wilson delighted Dayton audiences in the roles of Basilio in the comedic The Barber of Seville and Timur in the spectacular Turandot. Praised as singing with “an impressive focus, carrying power and quiet charisma” by the New York Times, Wilson takes the stage for the fifth time with Dayton Opera as the brazen hit-man Sparafucile. Wilson has built an impressive résumé over the last 16 years, with performances spanning the globe and including roles in such magnificent opera houses as Deutsche Opera Berlin and the Metropolitan Opera.

Tenor Daniel Stein, whose voice has been described as “warm and flexible,” makes his Dayton Opera debut as Borsa, a nobleman and member of the Duke’s entourage. Dayton Opera is always pleased to have its Artists-in-Residence join the cast of any performance, and this production is no exception. Mezzo-soprano Courtney Elvira is a current 2018-2019 Artist-in-Residence who will make her main stage debut as Giovanna, having just completed a mesmerizing performance as opera vocalist in Dayton Ballet’s thrilling Dracula: Bloodlines. Last season’s Dayton Opera Artist-in-Residence baritone Alexander Harper returns to the stage as Marullo in this production. Rounding out the cast are three talented Dayton Opera Chorus members who have taken supporting roles in Verdi’s masterpiece: soprano Megan L. Rehberg as Countess Ceprano, baritone Bradley Mattingly as Count Ceprano, and soprano Jennifer Rose Shaffer as a Page.

Dayton Opera is thrilled to welcome back director Kathleen Clawson for her thirteenth engagement with Dayton Opera. Kathleen is no stranger to Dayton audiences, having appeared three times as a guest soloist with Dayton Philharmonic. She has been directing operas with Dayton Opera since 2009, including last season’s hilarious presentation of The Barber of Seville. When not in Dayton or visiting other opera companies across the country, Kathleen devotes all of her time in her actual home of New Mexico as professor at the University of New Mexico, where she heads the degree program in Musical Theatre, and as Assistant Director of the Apprentice Program for Singers at Santa Fe Opera.

Jerome Shannon, Music Director and Principal Conductor for Pensacola Opera, will take the podium for the second time at Dayton Opera as conductor, leading the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra in this production. Praised for his “skill and verve” (New York Times), Shannon celebrates nearly 30 years as a professional operatic pianist, vocal coach, conductor and administrator. He was last in Dayton as conductor for Dayton Opera’s production of the critically acclaimed Dead Man Walking.

The ever-versatile men of the Dayton Opera Chorus, under the direction and leadership of Chorus Master Jeffrey Powell, take to the stage again to add their choral expertise to this heart-wrenching tale.

Want to learn even more about Rigoletto? Come one hour prior to both performances to hear pre-performance talks presented by UD Music Professor Dr. Sam Dorf inside the Mead Theatre.

Tickets for Rigoletto range from $29 to $95 and are available at www.daytonperformingarts.org or by calling Ticket Center Stage at (937) 228-3630. Senior, student, and military discounts are available. For more information on tickets, or how to subscribe to the 2018-2019 Vistas Season, visit www.daytonperformingarts.org.