Verdi’s Rigoletto

Friday, October 9, 2020 at 7:30pm
Performed at ONEOK Field

In its first performance for a live, in-person audience since the coronavirus outbreak, Tulsa Opera will present the company’s 2020–21 season opener, Verdi’s Rigoletto, outdoors in a semi-staged, baseball-themed production directed by James Robinson at local baseball stadium ONEOK Field on Friday, October 9 at 7:30 p.m. CT.

Originally scheduled for this date at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center, Tulsa Opera’s season-opening Rigoletto has been reimagined for the ballpark in order to accommodate a larger audience—2,700 socially distanced at the park, compared to 2,365 non-distanced at Tulsa PAC—and in safer, open-air conditions with rigorous health protocols in place. The performance will be followed by a fireworks display. ONEOK Field is home to the Tulsa Drillers baseball team, the Double-A, minor-league affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Tickets are $25 for general admission, $15 for students, and $50 for a family of five. Sales will open on Monday, August 17 via TulsaOpera.com.

Tulsa Opera General Director & CEO Ken McConnell said:

“Challenging times call for creative solutions. As difficult as it’s proving for orchestras to return to the concert hall, those of us in the opera world must contend with the fact that the core of our art form—singing—has become one of the most complex activities to undertake safely as our society tries to contain COVID-19. We have nevertheless found a way to open the season safely and on schedule, while also offering an utterly unique operatic experience, and we are delighted to be partnering with ONEOK Field and the Tulsa Drillers Management as we present this first opera of our 2020–21 season.”

For this performance, Tulsa Opera Artistic Director Tobias Picker—acclaimed composer of works for the Metropolitan Opera, New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, and San Francisco Opera, among many other leading companies and ensembles—has re-envisioned Verdi’s classic to run 85–90 minutes without intermission. The orchestral score has been adapted for a small orchestra consisting of two violins, viola, cello, bass, and piano.

Regarding the performance, Mr. Picker said:

“Our new ‘baseball’ Rigoletto taps into the fascinating, but little-known history of the cultural intersection between baseball and opera in the USA. An organic concept, this Rigoletto takes the ‘socially distanced’ baseball diamond as its stage—positioning the singers at different bases and baseball positions throughout the opera. We cordially invite all Tulsa baseball fans to come see an opera on the Tulsa Drillers’ home turf. Tulsa Opera is thrilled that James Robinson has accepted our invitation to make his Tulsa Opera debut directing his hometown opera company at this most extreme and challenging time in the history of American opera.”

This production is the first since the coronavirus outbreak to be directed by James Robinson, one of America’s most inventive and sought-after stage directors. Mr. Robinson has previously directed productions at companies including the Dallas, Houston Grand, Metropolitan, and San Francisco Operas. Among his recent highlights is a widely acclaimed production of Porgy and Bess created for the Metropolitan Opera; Dutch National Opera, Amsterdam; and English National Opera.

Health & Safety Guidelines

In staging its season opener, Tulsa Opera is taking every precaution to ensure the safety of all audience members, performers, and staff. The health and safety guidelines for all aspects of the rehearsal, preparation, and presentation process are in compliance with all government requirements for gatherings of this size and nature, and will also incorporate recommended practices from public health authorities and theater-industry unions. In compliance with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, a COVID Compliance Officer will be appointed to oversee the production and ensure that all protocols are being properly followed.

Audience members in the stands—up to 2,700 people—will be seated every other row, with three empty seats separating each person or family within the row they are sitting. Masks must be worn at all times, and disposable masks and sanitizer will be readily available to attendees at no additional charge. Staff will ensure regular cleaning and sanitization of public and high-traffic areas.

All performers and staff will undergo symptom and exposure screenings at the beginning of each day that they are involved in the production. Six feet of social distancing will be observed as a general rule, and singers will be kept a minimum of 25 feet away from others in the direction of vocal production at all times while singing. Masks are required for all except for the singers during rehearsal and performance while singing.

Cast will dress and prepare in their personal hotel rooms rather than in communal dressing spaces. In addition, whenever possible, wardrobe, makeup, and properties interactions will be isolated to the performers themselves with no cross-handling. In the event that a crewperson needs to interact with production elements or the performers, PPE, sanitization, and social-distancing protocols will be implemented under supervision of the COVID Compliance Officer. Work schedules and logistics will also be coordinated to allow for shorter work periods to reduce the likelihood of compromised immune systems due to fatigue and stress, and to eliminate unnecessary crossover between groups.

Meet the Cast

Among the cast is soprano and Oklahoma native Sarah Coburn, who returns to Tulsa Opera to star as Gilda. Ms. Coburn has sung at leading opera houses around the world, including the Metropolitan Opera and Wiener Staatsoper. The role of the Duke is sung by tenor Joshua Wheeker, a graduate of the Young Artist program at LA Opera, where he has sung in numerous productions. Mr. Wheeker made his role debut as the Duke last summer at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. The role of Sparafucile is sung by bass Morris Robinson. A regular on the stage of The Metropolitan Opera, Mr. Robinson is a graduate of the Met’s prestigious Lindemann Young Artist Program and has appeared in principal roles at LA Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, San Francisco Opera, and Teatro alla Scala, among many other companies and opera houses around the world.

Mezzo-soprano Allegra De Vita is cast as Maddalena, following performances in recent years at the Washington National Opera, as well as at the Glimmerglass and Spoleto Festivals. Baritone Todd Thomas, whose Verdi has been heard at Lyric Opera of Chicago and Florida Grand Opera, among other companies, appears as the opera’s title character, while the role of Monterone is sung by bass Kevin Thompson. Mr. Thompson has appeared on the stages of the New York City Opera and Teatro Lirico Giuseppe Verdi, among others, as well as in concert at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and The Kennedy Center.

Conductor Steven White, who recently made his San Diego Opera debut in Rigoletto and has also conducted Verdi in productions at the Metropolitan Opera, leads from the pit in his Tulsa Opera debut.

From Tulsa Opera’s Filstrup Resident Artist Program, tenor Chris Mosz will make his company mainstage debut as Matteo Borsa, while Filstrup Resident Artists baritone Andrew René and bass-baritone Elliott Wulff will make their Tulsa Opera debuts as Marullo and Count Ceprano, respectively.

Rigoletto Filstrup Resident Artists
Left to right: Tulsa Opera Filstrup Resident Artists Chris Mosz, Andrew René, and Elliott Wulff

Season Updates

The remainder of Tulsa Opera’s 2020–21 season is currently planned for performance at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center, as originally announced.

Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice is scheduled for February 6, 2021, and Tobias Picker’s Emmeline is planned for April 30 and May 2, 2021, replacing the previously announced production of the composer’s new opera Awakenings, which will be presented in a future season. Emmeline, originally scheduled for May 2020 but cancelled due to the COVID-19 outbreak, had been previously re-scheduled for the 2021–22 season.

Don’t Miss Rigoletto!

Tickets sales will open on Monday, August 17 via TulsaOpera.com. Prices are $25 for general admission, $15 for students, and $50 for a family of five.