Rucker discovers Rigoletto is an opera role he can sing about

October 15, 1994|By Mike Giuliano | Mike Giuliano,Special to The Sun

Dipping into the red sauce repertory for the opening production of its 44th season, Verdi's "Rigoletto," tonight the Baltimore Opera Company brings high-voltage melodrama to the Lyric Opera House.

Baritone Mark Rucker, who sings the title role, has become known for his Verdi roles. When he sang the part of Renato in "Un ballo in maschera," in an Opera Company of Philadelphia production starring Luciano Pavarotti, Opera magazine opined:

"Here, Rucker sounds like a major addition to the ranks of genuine Verdi baritones."

Mr. Rucker has performed "Rigoletto" with the New York City Opera, Indianapolis Opera, Dayton Opera, Connecticut Opera and Opera Columbus. This season, he'll perform it for Austin Lyric Opera and Knoxville Opera.

There's no denying the dramatic wallop packed by "Rigoletto," with the melodramatic intrigue between the randy Duke of Mantua, his hunchbacked jester Rigoletto, and the widowed Rigoletto's only and much-beloved daughter, Gilda. The ensuing tale of royal depravity, lust, curses and other tailor-made operatic twists leads inevitably to vengeance-maddened characters meeting their destinies on a dark and stormy night.

"The reason it's a great role is that any father with a daughter can relate to it," Mr. Rucker said. "You may not be able to understand Rigoletto going to the great lengths he goes to, but you can understand the love he has for his daughter."

Though it is a strong role, Mr. Rucker doesn't want this part to become the only role for which he's known. "I don't want to get pigeonholed as doing that one part."

Recent seasons have also seen him as the High Priest in "Samson et Dalila," Amonasro in "Aida," Stankar in "Stiffelio," the title role of "Macbeth," Alfio in "Cavalleria rusticana," the title role in "Nabucco," and Enrico in "Lucia di Lammermoor."

Mr. Rucker, the son of Chicago musicians and singers, won't divulge his age. He will say that after collegiate training, he became a school teacher. Then, about 10 years ago, he decided to sing rather than teach singing.

The road to an operatic career included being a semi-finalist in the 1981 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, a participant in San Francisco's Merola Program in 1982, a finalist in the Dallas Morning News/G.B. Dealey Awards and in the National Association of Teachers of Singers (Advanced) in 1983, and prize winner in the Pavarotti Competition in 1986.

Immediately before doing "Rigolet to" in Baltimore, he was in Ireland to participate in a recording of "Aida."

"I'd never done a complete opera recording before. I never realized how tedious it can be. I'd thought we could sing the opera through and go home, but instead you sing and then they splice in so much that it's very tedious work.

"You can get by with certain things in a [live] production, but with a recording you have to be at the top of your game."


VTC When: Tonight at 8:15 p.m., Oct. 19 at 7:30 p.m., Oct. 21 and 22 at 8:15 p.m., and Oct. 23 at 3 p.m.

Where: Lyric Opera House, 140 W. Mount Royal Ave.

Tickets: $18 to $89

Call: (410) 727-6000

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