Rigoletto: Edmonton Opera’s Court Jester is Nothing to Laugh About

by Dustin Jussila

The adaptation of Giuseppe Verdi’s Rigoletto by the Edmonton Opera tries to offer a modern update on the classic three act opera. Instead, the opera presents a patchwork of separate ideas that, when presented together on stage, creates an interesting mix.

Rigoletto can absolutely be considered a classic opera, and it is interesting to consider how, with our modern eyes, we can see how our society has evolved. This Opera provides a snapshot into antiquated gender roles; 21st century men and women might have challenges personally relating to the themes and characters this Opera presents. Will modern women relate to the innocent and naive female lead? Are men going to sympathize with the father taking revenge over the loss of their daughter’s purity? The story weaves an emotionally unique narrative, even if it is a bit old-fashioned. I was struck by the old fashioned values in the narrative – This story showcases a Jester’s daughter being seduced by a powerful duke as punishment for the Jester’s slights. Taking a story about an atrocity committed against a woman and placing it in the perspective of her father instead goes to show how far our culture has travelled in giving women their own autonomy.

The stage and costume design were fascinating choices. All the actors in Rigoletto looked to be inspired from science fiction, a medieval revival, or a 1960s-70s dance club, while the stage was a simple but functional windowed backdrop with walkway on the second level. Like a suffocating fever dream, viewing this Opera will make audiences feel like they are visiting an alternate universe where one would not want to stay for too long.

What made the experience worth it was the stars of the show. James Westman and Sharleen Joynt were fantastic as Rigoletto and Gilda. Joynt’s soprano cut though the auditorium like lightning. When all the male actors sang in unison, it was quite a spectacle for the ears and even opera novices will be awed. Even if you are a seasoned Opera veteran, you will be impressed with this contemporary re-imagining of the classic Italian story.


Rigoletto is now closed for the season, wrapping up the Opera’s shows for 2019. They will begin again in 2020, with The Marriage of Figaro.


Images courtesy of Nanc Price