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Also published in The Rover.

My double-tall opera companion mortified me by texting during the overture of Opéra de Montréal’s season opener, Rigoletto. But then I looked at what she had written and it was okay. She had ordered rye delivery.

She understood, barely into the first act, the character of the night to come: a talented cast was to be sacrificed. A general loosening would be required to enjoy the lions’ work.

I suppose one could defend the sadistic casting, aimless direction and leaden design as a brilliant comment on the tragic injustice of Verdi’s opera. But that’s turning Junior’s snotty dribblings into a Pollack, and I don’t love Junior that much.

Our child is allergic to great talent, apparently, because baritone Anthony Michaels-Moore (Rigoletto) and soprano Sarah Coburn (Gilda) were magnificent. They shone amidst an inspired cast, a talented assemblage with one exception.Tenor David Pomeroy (the Duke of Mantua) has a nervous habit of glancing at the audience, aware that we might leave any moment. It is understandable given his abilities.

Next to that, Michaels-Moore was mascarpone earmuffs, a moving balm of easy phrasing and beautiful restraint. His voice is a cake. He should be mayor and sing in the street every night.

As for his suicidally innocent daughter Gilda (the lesson here is, I think, not to lock them up but introduce them to men gradually), Coburn was astonishing, almost too voluptuous for a teenage virgin. Her “care nome” was an education in sensuality and an elegant piece of acting. But a singer is not an aria, and it was her luminous and sensitive performance, particularly opposite Michaels-Moore, that squeezed magic out of the evening. Her acclaim in this role is well deserved.

Tyrone Paterson, usually of Opera Lyra Ottawa, conducted his Opéra de Montréal debut with insufficient energy. The overture plodded out of the gates and led to a stifled first act, particularly unfortunate as it drained Alexandre Sylvestre’s (Monterone) righteous fury of any menace, though Paterson found his stride in the second and third.

The assassin’s inn at La Ronde represented this production’s example of the expected direction and design errors, like the bizarre decision to have Rigoletto and Gilda sing to each other through bars inside their home (Rigoletto holding the key), but this is all symptomatic of a wearisome lack of creativity and care.