In the title role of the hunchbacked court jester who loses his moral compass and his daughter, Stephen Powell was a commanding presence. His tone turned dry under pressure, but there was consistent expressive force in the baritone's vocalism and a communicative intensity that made the deeply flawed character affecting.
Bryan Hymel, the fast-rising tenor who has been enjoying triumphs in New York, London and elsewhere since his first Lyric Opera Baltimore last season, gave a persuasive portrayal of the lecherous Duke. His voice, with its bright, open sound and fast vibrato, sent an electric charge through the theater.
The singing would have been even more satisfying, though, had Hymel added subtler dynamic nuances here and there. Like most of today's tenors, he sang both verses of the ever-popular aria "La donna e mobile" at the same volume and with the same phrasing inflections.
As Rigoletto's daughter, Gilda, who is too smitten with the Duke to understand just how cruelly he has abused her, Norah Amsellem revealed a rich, flexible soprano and put a keen intensity into every phrase. She sculpted her lines in the death scene with particular eloquence, enhanced by exquisite pianissimo tones.
Colorful contributions came from the rest of the cast, especially Matthew Trevino as the coldblooded hit man Sparafucile (he also doubled as Monterone, sounding a little less impressive hurling curses); and Jennifer Feinstein as Maddalena, Sparafucile's sister, who, in this production, turns out to have a vicious streak of her own.
One of the company's strengths so far has been the attention paid to even the briefest of supporting roles. On this occasion, that meant firm singing from Anais Naharro-Murphy (Countess Ceprano and the Page), Natalie Conte (Giovanna), Kevin Wetzel (Marullo), Jimi James (Ceprano) and Ta'u Pupu'a (Borsa). The chorus made a cohesive effort.