The Philadelphia Opera returns to the stage
These 30-second dance videos had an unexpected result. Sarah Williams, creative producer at the Philadelphia Opera, saw Choi’s selfie videos and asked him to star ina TakTakShoo opera short film commissioned by composer René Orth. It was released on the company’s online video platform last year.
“Take that, dad,” she said. “Something came out of that.”
Now Choi and Evans are back on stage where they were meant to be two years ago, this time in Verdi’s classic opera Rigoletto. Evans has the lead role and Choi appears in the final act as Maddalena.
Rigoletto is the first in-person performance of a full opera production at the Philadelphia Opera in 942 days. The company recently produced concerts and won awards for its artistically ambitious streaming video productions during the pandemic, but hasn’t staged a traditional opera since September 2019.
Rigoletto will be performed at the Philadelphia Opera’s headquarters at the Academy of Music, where the production created by the New Zealand Opera places the 1851 opera in a modern Italian setting, emphasizing the toxic masculinity of violent men occupying positions of political power.
“It doesn’t let the men off the hook,” Evans said. “The Duke can sing all those hit opera songs that tons of people know, even outside of opera. The duke is a horrible person. They hear these songs and they say, ‘Oh, okay, he did bad things, but these songs are good.’ Our production is not like that.
While the story may be dark, Evans says the actors worked particularly well together after the performance was forced to be put on hold due to the pandemic.
“Everyone is so impatient,” he said. “The energy is just palpable.”