The RPO brings Verdi's 'Rigoletto' to life 

When Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra Music Director Andreas Delfs recently discussed composer Giuseppe Verdi’s “Rigoletto,” which the RPO will present in concert on May 18 and 20, he was clear about one thing in particular.

“It is easy to under-appreciate Verdi,” Delfs said.

The RPO’s annual tradition of presenting a popular opera in concert was established before Delfs took the helm. But as the former director of the Bern Opera, he fell easily into the rhythm. Delfs led his first, “Hansel and Gretel,” in 2021, and is following it up with “Rigoletto,” a staple of the operatic repertoire since 1851.

click to enlarge Baritone Petro Pryymak performing the title role in "Rigoletto." - PHOTO PROVIDED
  • Baritone Petro Pryymak performing the title role in "Rigoletto."
Italian operatic tenor Enrico Caruso once described Verdi’s “Il Trovatore” as requiring “simply the four greatest voices in the world” — and “Rigoletto” is equally demanding for its leading roles.
The title character is one of the great powerhouse roles for a dramatic baritone: a deformed, embittered jester in a morally corrupt court whose desire for revenge unknowingly leads to his daughter’s death.

Baritone Lester Lynch, who makes his RPO debut as Rigoletto, was drawn to this character while still a voice student. “Long before I was able to sing it,” he said. Since then, he has sung the role frequently and still loves it. (His email address is “Rigolettoman.”)

“How often does the baritone get to be the title character?” Lynch asked. “‘Rigoletto’ is dramatically fascinating. So many stories wrapped into a single, gut-wrenching story with the moral, ‘power corrupts.’”

The score contains some of opera’s greatest hits, including “La donna é mobile,” “Caro nome,” and a dramatic quartet. For Delfs, “Rigoletto” is not just a collection of great tunes; it’s an almost Shakespearian drama.

click to enlarge RPO Music Director Andreas Delfs. - PHOTO PROVIDED
  • RPO Music Director Andreas Delfs.
“Verdi is not only one of the greatest composers, but also one of the greatest psychologists of opera,” Delfs said. “He turns the incredibly torn, agonized character of Rigoletto into a three-dimensional, flesh-and-blood man.”

The concert performance will employ a bit of staging, but the focus will be on Verdi’s vocal and instrumental subtleties — and there are many.

“Verdi really needs to be performed in a certain style, with a sound unique to him,” Delfs explained. “He was very particular about what he wanted, even in what seemed to be plain accompaniment patterns. Everything in the music constantly supports the drama.”

The orchestra tells the tragic story as much as the voices do — the RPO will have the chance to let loose in the evocation of a violent storm, which precedes the climax of the drama.

“In a few minutes, Verdi creates the dramatic atmosphere, the darkness, the lightning and thunder,” Delfs said. “It’s a symphonic drama worthy of Beethoven.”

For more information on the RPO's concert presentation of "Rigoletto," go to

David Raymond is a freelance writer for CITY. Feedback on this article can be directed to CITY Editor Leah Stacy at [email protected].
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