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February 2, 2004
Contact: Press & Media Relations Coordinator (703-993-8794)

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George Mason University’s Center for the Arts presents
contemporary, sharp-edged production by
Ken Cazan
Libretto by Francesco Maria Piave
Based on the French play Le Roi s’amuse by Victor Hugo
World Premiere at Teatro La Fenice, Venice, March 11, 1851
Courting dishonor and despair in Verdi's tragic masterpiece

Fairfax, Virginia, January 20, 2004- Virginia Opera continues its 2003-2004 Season with the presentation of the intense drama and sublime music of Verdi’s RIGOLETTO. The story of aristocratic arrogance, fatherly love and a terrifying curse comes to the stage in a contemporary and sharp-edged production directed by Ken Cazan(A MASKED BALL/2002). Maestro Peter Mark conducts all performances.
The title role in RIGOLETTO is one of the greatest in all music-drama. Rigoletto's anguished attempts to rise above his weakness to save his daughter make for a heart-rending and riveting story. Baritone Grant Youngblood (Figaro in BARBER OF SEVILLE/2002) returns to the Virginia Opera stage as the twisted, vengeful court jester. Soprano Jane Redding (Rosina in BARBER OF SEVILLE/2002) will perform the role of Rigoletto’s vulnerable daughter Gilda. Tenor Scott Piper makes his Virginia Opera debut as the womanizing Duke of Mantua. Baritone Eric Greene (Colline in ANDREA CHÉNIER/2003) performs the role of Monterone, the nobleman whose curse starts off the opera’s tragic sequence of events.
The production is sung in Italian with English translations projected above the stage. Performances are Friday, February 20 at 8PM and Sunday, February 22 at 2PM at George Mason University’s Center for the Arts Concert Hall. A pre-performance artistic discussion – free to ticket holders – is held 45-minutes prior to each performance on the hall’s Grand Tier.

"Rigoletto was Verdi’s first major revolutionary work, dealing strongly as it does with the violation of accepted moral code, the misuse of power and the abuse of women," comments Peter Mark, artistic director of Virginia Opera on this cutting-edge production, and Mark is quick to explain, "Be forewarned: our bold new production of this acknowledged masterpiece portrays all of the adult situations including sexual content needed to unleash the full power of the original." Although not actually seen, but strongly implied, this opera deals with sexual violence and the exploitation of women.

"It was very strange to pick up Rigoletto after fourteen years of purposely putting it out of my mind. In the first production I directed, there was no search for Verdi’s intention in writing the piece," explains Stage Director Ken Cazan. "What a pleasure in this incarnation when Peter Mark and I immediately agreed that we didn’t want to see a generic Rigoletto, but a Rigoletto as Everyman, a normal man with a superior wit, victim of his birth into a society where the pleasures of the upper class are tantamount and the poor simply live and die." Cazan days that he, Peter Harrison (set designer), and Kathy Grillo (costume designer) explored the nearest period of unfettered self-indulgence, and the late 1960s and early 1970s came to mind.

Harrison’s set is, of necessity, representative of many locations. It contains elements of classical art in the massive tapestry always present at the Duke’s and in the nude feminine caryatids holding up the various levels of the platforming. At first they are elegant, indulgent, architectural details in the home of a nobleman famous for his support of the arts. In Act III, the supports take on a more sinister feel as they hold up the sub-human dwellings of the "working women" of Mantua. They are indicative of the objectifying manner in which the sexually addicted Duke and his coterie treat women. The set is also purposely representative of the burgeoning industrial age that was Verdi’s world in the form of a tower with a rusty, corroded outer surface.

"Rigoletto becomes a victim of his own ambition," concludes Cazan, "bent by his hatred of his job and his employer. His clothes weigh him down; the tattered remnants of what he might have been were he not trapped in a class structure over which he has no control. He tries desperately to micromanage his personal life, to keep it, and thus his daughter, totally cut off from the corrupt world in which he is so deeply entrenched. This, of course, results in the opposite of what he had intended: his teenage daughter rebels, culminating in her physical destruction and his emotional demolition."
This Rigoletto contains adult situations and may not be suitable for all ages.

Tickets for Virginia Opera’s RIGOLETTO, Friday, Feb. 20 at 8:00 p.m., and Sunday, Feb. 22 at 2:00 p.m., are $42-$78. Charge by phone at 703-218-6500 or visit The Center for the Arts complex is located on the Fairfax campus of George Mason University at the intersection of Braddock Road and Route 123. Paid parking is located in the deck adjacent to the mainstage Concert Hall and FREE parking is located in university lot K. Visit

GREAT PERFORMANCES AT MASON is a program of George Mason University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts. The College of Visual and Performing Arts exists to create an academic environment in which the arts may be considered both as individual disciplines and as interdisciplinary forms that strengthen each other. Believing that an education in the arts is deepened by regular contact with the work of distinguished visiting artists, the College draws on a variety of professional presenting and producing units where artists from across the country and around the world regularly perform, give master classes, work with students during extended residencies, and interact with the community in a variety of other ways. These programs at the Center for the Arts Concert Hall, TheaterSpace, Galleries, Harris Theater, and other venues, provide a diverse selection of challenging and entertaining cultural experiences for the University community, as well as Northern Virginia and the greater Washington, D.C. area. The College houses four academic departments: Art and Visual Technology, Dance, Music and Theater.