The Catholic University of America

March 11, 2015 

CUA’s Rigoletto: A Verdi Masterpiece in an Intimate Setting


Catholic University’s production of Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi’s tragic masterpiece Rigoletto March 19 through 22 at Hartke Theatre promises “an intimacy and immediacy” not found at larger venues in the Washington, D.C., area.

“The audience will see this great work of Verdi’s by up-and-coming singers — perhaps some of the stars of a decade from now — in an intimate setting,” says opera director James Hampton. “Our students have worked hard to create vivid characters. My hope is that audiences will experience this masterpiece in a more vital and fresh way.”

Verdi’s story of the licentious Duke of Mantua, his hunchbacked court jester, Rigoletto, and Rigoletto's beautiful daughter, Gilda, is presented by the Voice Division of the University’s Benjamin T. Rome School of Music at Hartke Theatre, which seats about 700 people.

The opera in three acts, with Italian libretto by Francesco Maria Piave, is based closely on the controversial 1832 play Le Roi s’amuse by Victor Hugo. Rigoletto — part of the opera world’s standard repertory — will be sung in Italian with English surtitles.

“Compared with other operas, performances of Rigoletto are extremely rare at the university level because of the great vocal and dramatic demands,” says Grayson Wagstaff, dean of the music school. “Such an opportunity for undergraduate students is rare, perhaps unique, in the United States.”

Hampton notes that the cast is learning “a piece that they’re probably going to encounter again in their careers. If they’re given the opportunity to do this major work some other time, they’re already familiar with it.”

Performances of Rigoletto will take place in Hartke, 3801 Harewood Road, Thursday, March 19; Friday, March, 20; and Saturday, March 21, at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, March 22, at 2 p.m.

  Senior Molly Allen will play Gilda in the music school's production of Rigoletto.

Senior vocal performance major Molly Allen, of Mountaintop, Pa., will play Gilda at the Thursday evening and Sunday matinee performances. Allen says that working with Hampton; Sharon Christman, head of the Vocal Division and opera advisor for the music school; and other music faculty “is an honor. Our professors are very accomplished. As a student, it’s wonderful to learn from someone who has performed and worked in the field.”

Christman, who has sung leading roles with numerous opera companies, including New York City Opera and The Metropolitan Opera, played Gilda alongside baritone Pablo Elvira in the New Jersey State Opera production of Rigoletto.

Allen, who’s applying to graduate schools, says, “I’m incredibly lucky to have this role as an undergraduate. A lot of my friends who go to other universities have not had this kind of opportunity. I’ve had so much preparation. I’ll be ready for whatever comes next for me.”

Allen played the role of Gretel in the music school’s 2013 production of the opera Hansel and Gretel. She had a small role in the 2012 production of The Merry Widow and was in the ensemble for earlier productions of Madama Butterfly and Romeo and Juliet. Rigoletto marks her first performance in a leading role with an orchestra.

Allen, who says she spends “a lot of time in the practice room,” is planning to return to campus early this week, before the end of spring break, to spend time practicing with her fellow performers.

The opera will be conducted by Danielle Tirilli, president of the Morlacchi Opera Company in Perugia, Italy. Tirilli, who conducted Don Giovanni at Catholic University last spring, has been working with CUA students since he participated in Music Fest Perugia with Christman. Since then, he has given master classes at the music school in Italian diction and opera.

Under Tirilli’s tutelage, senior Nathan Blair will conduct one performance of Rigoletto. Blair studies conducting with Professor Murry Sidlin and collaborative piano with Professor Ivo Kaltchev, head of the Piano Division. Blair conducted Hansel and Gretel as well as one performance of Don Giovanni.

Tickets are $30 for general admission; $15 for CUA alumni; $15 for seniors, faculty, and staff; and $5 for CUA students with ID. For more information or to buy tickets, call 202-319-5416 or visit




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