Every so often, one can’t help but stand back from the opera stage and marvel at the army of singers, choristers, instrumentalists, visual artists, and technicians focused on making it all happen.

This seems not to be an isolated opinion. In its long-awaited return to staged opera at the Academy of Music (942 days, since September 2019), Opera Philadelphia’s Rigoletto production attracted a good-sized audience of 1,400 (70% of the “full view” seats) despite soft ticket sales in other cities and an isolated COVID outbreak that reduced the Curtis Symphony Orchestra’s Kimmel Center concert to a chamber music recital.

Admirably, Opera Philadelphia didn’t rest easy on a traditional production. Imported from the New Zealand Opera, the Lindy Hume production updated the story from its 16th-century origins to more modern governments (former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was in her mind’s eye), with imposing interiors and multiple video screens that suggested anything from a news conference to what appeared to be a seagull turning into a vulture.

But despite a vocally capable cast, that gamble worked out intermittently at best. Overall, the opening was medium voltage — it felt more like a dress rehearsal — with everything in the right places but with no molten core of primal emotions. The three later performances — May 1, 6, and 8 — may well be different, at least on that front.

In any case, visual adjustments must be made. In this gritty story of the Duke of Mantua — with his corrupt court and throwaway attitude toward women — Rigoletto isn’t a jester so much as a sharp-tongued butler in a natty uniform. There’s little hint that the character was originally written to be a hunchback. And when at home, Rigoletto looked to be a typical guy in the suburbs. No problem. Really.

The point of the character is his fear and rage over the abduction of his virginal daughter Gilda. After her rapturous aria “Caro Nome” professing her love for the Duke, she was surrounded by ominous half-lighted men in business suits — a highly arresting stage picture. Characters were brutally slugged at various points. Gilda’s subsequent nighttime abduction was a welter of flashlights — a decent solution to a rarely convincing scene.

Elsewhere, bright ideas and good intentions weren’t well translated to the strengths of this particular cast by revival director Daniel Pelzig. Tenor Joshua Blue, for one, sang the Duke in a pleasingly robust manner with a wonderful upper range and some of the most perfect vocal trills I’ve heard in years. But when not being a public statesman, and when slumming at the roadhouse, he became awkward and unconvincing.

As Gilda, Raven McMillon proved to be a warm-voiced lyric soprano whose coloratura abilities were a bit tentative and would probably be aided by not having to sing while rolling around in bed. (With great music, there are times when old-school standing and singing still works.) In the title role, Anthony Clark Evans promised to be an answer to the Verdi baritone shortage with a solid Italianate voice, an attractively fast vibrato but a confounding, benign stage presence. Where was the fatherly rage?

It was at least heard in the orchestra writing. But even though music director Corrado Rovaris’ stamp was evident in the meticulous musical preparation, his usual performance electricity was muted. You know that Rigoletto is working when, despite the dated plot devices, you care about the characters enough that you hope it won’t end tragically. In this production, the low-life characters of Sparafucile (Wei Wu) and Maddalena (Kristen Choi) — seen in a set that resembled a Florida roadside bar — registered so strongly in the final act you almost rooted for them.

Well, we’re all getting used to being back out in the world, and opera folk aren’t necessarily different. Any company’s many moving parts need to be warmed up sometimes. And if this Rigoletto was an essential step in Opera Philadelphia’s journey back to its full-tilt self, I’ll take it.

Opera Philadelphia repeats Rigoletto May 1, 6 and 8. Tickets: $25-$299. Information: 215-732-8400 or https://www.operaphila.org.