The baritone Michael Chioldi captured all sides of this complex character, in an affecting, powerful portrayal. At first, it appeared this would be a Rigoletto in which the character’s bitterness, darkness and aggression would predominate. As he mocked the nobleman Monterone, Chioldi drew out the notes, ramping up the derision in a manner that was more subtle than the usual clowning seen in opera. With his large voice, the aria “Pari siamo,” in which he meditates on what he does for a living, came off with cavernous dark tones. And he gave a thunderous cry of rage and horror, “Ah, la maledizione!” when he discovers his daughter Gilda’s disappearance.
He expressed his love for her through violence, pushing her maid around as he demands that he keep her safe. Later in the opera, as he pleads with the courtiers to return her, singing in the Duke’s cold court, he gave a deeply moving performance, singing “Marullo, Signore,” with melting warmth.