Vancouverites eagerly await the return of sensational superstar soprano
Simone Osborne in VO's

Vancouverites eagerly await the return of sensational superstar soprano
Simone Osborne in VO's
Simone Osborne

Vancouver Opera kicks off the exciting 2015-2016 season with Giuseppe Verdi’s thrilling blockbuster, Rigoletto. Powerful baritone Gordon Hawkins will sing the title role, with international superstar soprano Simone Osborne as Gilda and acclaimed tenor Bruce Sledge as the Duke. Sensational melodies, heartbreaking drama and vivid characters make this dark, tender drama of love and revenge irresistible. Rigoletto will be sung in Italian with English translations projected above the stage. Approximate running time: 2 hours and 40 minutes, including 2 intermissions.

The Singers

Baritone Gordon Hawkins returns to VO to sing the title role, having thrilled audiences as Scarpia in 2013’s Tosca. Mr. Hawkins has been critically acclaimed throughout the world for his complex interpretations and luxuriant voice. He is a winner of the Luciano Pavarotti Competition and in 2006 was honoured as the Washington National Opera “Artist of the Year.” Mr. Hawkins recently sang the title role in Seattle Opera’s Nabucco. «Gordon Hawkins is a masterly Nabucco, with convincing acting in a role that requires him to be overbearing, then feeble, then contrite…» declared the Seattle Times.

Canadian soprano Simone Osborne will sing Gilda. Ms. Osborne delighted VO audiences as Pamina in 2013 Magic Flute and as Juliette in 2011’sRoméo et Juliette; Vancouver opera lovers will eagerly anticipate her heart-rending aria “Caro nome”. The Metropolitan Opera audition-winner has been praised by the Georgia Straight for her «elegant and expressive style, her openness of sound, and her unaffectedly natural acting.» Continues the Straight, «She sang no less than exquisitely, hitting every high note…This girl’s going places. Watch her.»

Tenor Bruce Sledge (The Duke) has earned rave reviews for a variety of roles, including praise from The San Antonio Express-News for his “silky, almost sensual voice”. He has appeared at the Metropolitan Opera as Almaviva in Il barbiere di Siviglia and New York City Opera as Ernesto in Don Pasquale, and recently appeared at a recital for the Marilyn Horne Foundation at Carnegie’s Weill Hall. Mr. Sledge returns to VO having last appeared in the same role in 2009’s production of Rigoletto.

Bass Matthew Treviño makes his VO debut in the role of Sparafucile. Described as a «bass of rare talent» (San Francisco Chronicle) and «simply mesmerizing» (The Tennessean), Mr. Treviño is proving to be one of today’s most sought-after young basses. This season, he will also sing Leporello in Intermountain Opera’s Don Giovanni, Colline in Opera Coeur d’Alene’s  La bohème and Ashby in Opera Omaha ‘s La fanciulla del West.

Singing Maddalena, Canadian mezzo-soprano Carolyn Sproule also makes her VO debut. Ms. Sproule is a native of Montréal and a graduate of The Juilliard School and Rice University. She furthered her training with residencies at The Banff Centre, Aspen Opera Theatre, Merola Opera Program, Wolf Trap Opera (Filene Young Artist), and the Houston Grand Opera Studio. Recently, she completed a season with The Metropolitan Opera, during which she made her debut as the Sandman in Hansel and Gretel and covered the roles of The Palestinian Woman in The Death of Klinghoffer, Javotte in Manon, and Lola in Cavalleria rusticana.

Winner of the 2014 George London Competition, Canadian baritone Cameron McPhail makes his VO debut as Count Monterone. Mr. McPhail is a past member of the Canadian Opera Company Ensemble where his roles included Schaunard in La bohème, Guglielmo in Così fan tutte, and Silvano in Un ballo in maschera. A recipient of awards and scholarships from the Vancouver Women’s Musical Society, the David Spencer Endowment and the Manitoba Arts Council, he holds both an Artist Diploma in Voice and a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from the University of British Columbia.

Ontario baritone Willy Miles-Grenzberg will sing Count Ceprano; Yulanda M. Faris Young Artists Program soprano participant Eden Tremayne makes her VO mainstage debut as Countess Ceprano and Page. Rounding out the cast are Yulanda M. Faris Young Artists Program participants Zachary Read (baritone) as Marullo, Marcel d’Entremont (tenor) as Borsa and Francesca Corrado (mezzo-soprano) as Giovanna. Bass-baritone Angus Bell will sing the Herald.

VO’s Music Director Jonathan Darlington returns to the podium to conduct (Leslie Dala, Associate Conductor / Chorus Director).

The stage director is Nancy Hermiston. Ms. Hermiston’s  performing career took her throughout Canada, the United States and Europe. Since then, she has held numerous appointments as voice teacher and stage director. In 1995, she joined the University of British Columbia’s School of  Music as Head of the Voice and Opera Division, where she established the UBC Opera Ensemble.

The Story in Brief

Rigoletto is a jester in the court of a womanizing Duke. Gilda is his beloved daughter. When Rigoletto’s jokes go too far, he becomes the subject of an angry Count’s curse. Gilda is secretly wooed by the Duke and kidnapped by his courtiers. Gilda reveals that the Duke seduced her and Rigoletto swears revenge. He hires a hitman, but the plan goes wrong and Gilda pays the price with her life. Read a full synopsis at


Giuseppe Verdi’s Rigoletto is based on Victor Hugo’s play, Le roi s’amuse, which opened in Paris on November 22, 1832. The reception was poor, to say the least: audience reaction ranged from icy silence to hoots of laughter, and the authorities shut it down after its first performance, citing immoral themes. Verdi never had the chance to see it on stage.

But Verdi was thrilled by the play, describing it as “great, immense, and it includes a character who is one of the greatest creations that theatre of all nations and all times can boast.” Nothing since Macbeth had had such an effect on him. In 1850, as Verdi was about to sign a contract with Teatro La Fenice in Venice, he broached the subject of an operatic Le roi to librettist Francesco Maria Piave, with whom he had written the opera Ernani in 1844.

Ernani, also based on a Hugo play, had enjoyed great success, but the first draft of Piave’s libretto for Le roi s’amuse appalled the Venetian censors. They were shocked that Verdi and Piave had squandered their talents on a subject of “such repellant immorality and obscene triviality” and immediately forbade its performance in

Piave had to rewrite the libretto twice before it satisfied both Verdi and the censors. Paris was rewritten as Mantua; the King became a Duke. Even the title went through multiple revisions. But through it all, Verdi fought to have the substance of the drama remain.

Opera of the time dictated that virtue be portrayed as beautiful and evil as ugly. Verdi’s Rigoletto was much more complex: the misshapen jester is vengeful and repellent, but he is also the embodiment of selfless paternal love. Gilda is sweet and pure, but she condones her seducer’s treachery by forgiving him. The characters are contradictory and complicated.

Rigoletto premièred at La Fenice on March 11, 1851. “The composer or his librettist have been gripped by a posthumous affection for the satanic school already out of fashion,” attacked the Gazetta di Venezia, “They have sought the ideal in the deformed, the horrible…We cannot praise these tastes.”  Outside of Venice, censors permitted only alternative versions of the opera: Viscardello, Lionello, Clara di Perth. Some of these included a different ending, with Gilda surviving at the end of the opera.

Within ten years Rigoletto had been staged in over 250 opera houses, and it remains one of the most-performed operas in the world. Its variety, profundity and brave originality have made it impervious to critics and censors.

Rigoletto will be onstage at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre for 4 performances, September 26 – October 4, 2015.

Full Ticket Information

Tickets are available exclusively through the Vancouver Opera Ticket Centre: 604-683-0222 or Visa, MasterCard and American Express are accepted. Special pricing for groups of 10 or more is available by phone.

Follow Vancouver Opera on Twitter and Facebook for exclusive offers such as VO’s Get O.U.T (Opera Under 35) program, with $35 tickets for patrons aged under 35.

Single tickets are available from the Vancouver Opera Ticket Centre, online at, or by phone at 604-683-0222. Visa, MasterCard and American Express are accepted. Groups: For special pricing for groups of 10 or more, call 604-683-0222.