IF YOU GO
What: Retired opera singer Joy Davidson and Sarasota opera conductor Victor DeRenzi lead a discussion of Verdi's "Rigoletto."
When: 10 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 14
Where: Toni Stabile Education Building on the campus of the Naples Philharmonic Center for the Arts, 5833 Pelican Bay Boulevard, Naples
Cost: $32 each or $90 for entire series
Information: 800-597-1900 or thephil.org
Something Else: The Toni Stabile Education Building is located behind the Naples Museum of Art and Daniels Pavilion.
On the Web: More theater news at The Stage Door blog
5833 Pelican Bay Boulevard, Naples, FL
NAPLES — Does your knowledge of opera start — and end — with Bugs Bunny pranking a divo tenor, causing poor Giovanni to hold that high G note forever as the Hollywood Bowl crumbles? It really shouldn't. Let's change that, shall we? Retired Metropolitan Opera singer Joy Davidson can help you with that.
Davidson will lead three sessions titled "Backstage at the Opera" as part of the Naples Philharmonic Center for the Arts's Lifelong Learning program. Your first lesson: "Rigoletto," Giuseppe Verdi's 1851 work about a love story involving the Duke of Mantua and a hunch-backed servant. Class time? 10 a.m., Wednesday, November 14.
Bored already? Davidson has decades of experience under her belt. She knows that opera comes with a reputation. She wants to change that.
Her capsule of "Rigoletto" makes the three acts sound more like a soap opera. She describes the show having "licentious lust, a blood-curdling curse, court-jesting with dark humor and tender love in surprising places."
Sex. Lust. Curses. Even some laughs. What else do you want?
"I try to simplify what has been described as the 'culmination of the arts,'" Davidson said. "[Opera is] drama which combines the best of vocal art with visual splendor, dance and continuous music with the whole being greater than the parts."
The singer, actress and teacher plans a full-scale multimedia attack. Excerpts from "Rigoletto" will tempt ears while a slideshow of sixteenth century art flashes across the screen. Maestro Victor DeRenzi, the artistic director and principal conductor of Sarasota Opera will join the class for a spirited interview.
Davidson's goal is to move the instructional experience from basic lecture to something akin to a cafe table conversational experience.
"I want to take people off the Naples streets and transport them back to mid-Renaissance," Davidson enthused.
"Rigoletto" has lasted for more than a century; it is one of the most-performed operas in the world. Davidson offers two possible reasons.
"[It has] a shocking and ever so slightly preposterous story based on a play by Victor Hugo which never fails to fascinate," she ticks of one finger, before adding "and sublime music which gives us some of the most memorable and recognizable operatic tunes."
That plot sizzles with drama. And scandal. Lashings of scandal.
"I love exploring the humanity of characters," Davidson said. "'Rigoletto' is full of delicious tidbits which I'm delighted to highlight."
Davidson says that the most common thing audiences get wrong about opera singers is that they are bad actors. She wants to help patrons learn that opera is more than a voice.
"Backstage at the Opera" has three sessions; all classes are at 10 a.m. Wednesdays. The Nov. 14 program will cover "Rigoletto" with Sarasota Opera conductor Victor DeRenzi. A Dec. 12 edition will explore "Tosca," with Opera Naples founder Steffanie Pearce. Sarasota Opera stage director Stephanie Sundine appears March 27, 2013 to "tell all" about "Turandot." Cost is $90 for the series or $32 each. Call 800-597-1900 or online at thephil.org.