Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra, 2013
"The offstage banda balanced well with the full ensemble and chorus of male courtiers to create a light, comic atmosphere for the introduction of Rolando Sanz’s charming Duke of Mantua. Through his ringing tone and effortless use of portamento and rubato in the ballata “Questa o quella,” Sanz made the Duke more likable than he probably should have been.
Sanz’s Duke was as effective offstage as on, with perfectly timed exclamations and incredible control of changing tempos, textures, and stage movement (including several arias which ended far backstage). He was his best when singing with Gilda, which may have been intended by Verdi, as his Act II music is very different, depicting his loss of Gilda (“Ella mi fu rapita!”) and his later inability to remain faithful to her.
To this point, Verdi placed most of the burden of the drama on only three characters: the Duke, Rigoletto, and Gilda. In the final half of the production alone, the ever–enthusiastic Duke sang two duets, two extended arias, contributed to two ensemble numbers, and presented three different versions of his ironic ode to fickleness, “La donna è mobile.” Rolando Sanz played with these ideas vocally, sometimes adding humorous ornamentation and purposefully missed notes to demonstrate his character’s lack of seriousness. His costume, while remaining basically white, like the courtiers, gradually added more color and style, including a wide–collared unbuttoned pink blouse displaying a large gold medallion and an apple which he took bites of in between vocal phrases.
Verdi’s Act III balanced those incredible demands with a famous quartet, “Un dì, se ben rammentomi”, for the Duke and Maddalena contrasted with an intimate conversation between Gilda and her father. Maddalena’s love scene with the Duke, although using only a tiny portion of the stage, played a powerful role in solidifying Verdi’s portrayal of the Duke as a flawed and lascivious character. The clarinets played a unifying role in Act III, with an expressive solo introducing Maddalena and a perfectly blended duo accompanying the Duke’s aria."
Laura Stanfield Prichard, The Boston Musical Intelligencer