The Metropolitan Opera HD Live: Season 7, Episode 9

Verdi: Rigoletto (16 Feb. 2013)

TV Episode  -  Music
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Set in rat-pack Las Vegas. Duke is Sinatra; Rigoletto is Don Rickles. Rigoletto owns a condo; he holds the elevator for the courtiers. Later on, when he finds a stranger's corpse in his car-trunk, why doesn't he drive her to the hospital?

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Title: Verdi: Rigoletto (16 Feb 2013)

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Cast

Episode credited cast:
Piotr Beczala ...
The Duke
Alexander Lewis ...
Borsa
Emalie Savoy ...
Countess Ceprano
Zeljko Lucic ...
Rigoletto
Jeffrey Mattsey ...
Marullo
David Crawford ...
Count Ceprano
Robert Pomakov ...
Monterone
Stefan Kocán ...
Sprafucile
Diana Damrau ...
Gilda
Maria Zifchak ...
Giovanna
Catherine Choi ...
A Page
Earle Patriarco ...
Guard
Oksana Volkova ...
Maddalena
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Metropolitan Opera Ballet ...
Dancers
Katarina Dalayman ...
Herself
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Storyline

Set in rat-pack Las Vegas. Duke is Sinatra; Rigoletto is Don Rickles. Rigoletto owns a condo; he holds the elevator for the courtiers. Later on, when he finds a stranger's corpse in his car-trunk, why doesn't he drive her to the hospital?

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16 February 2013 (USA)  »

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User Reviews

 
Rigoletto in Rat-pack style, but failed to hit a jackpot with me
17 February 2013 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

While better than Season 2's Hansel and Gretel, Season 4's Tosca and Season 6's La Traviata(my bottom 3 for the Met Opera Live in HD broadcasts), Rigoletto signalled the first disappointment(for me) of this season. Also the most disappointing, seeing as of the 7th season it was Rigoletto I was looking forward to most. Rigoletto is one of Verdi's finest operas, one that, like Otello and La Traviata(Don Carlo is almost so if not as accessible) is perfect musically and dramatically. So it's not like the opera is part of the problem like with The First Emperor or The Enchanted Island.

The production is a classic example of the musical values faring far better than the visuals and the staging. Because musically it is outstanding. The orchestral playing has zest, power and pathos, while young Michele Mariotti's conducting is musical, authoritative and accommodating to the singers. The chorus sound great in sound and blending and react very well to the drama, definitely evidence of them being well-rehearsed. Zeljko Lucic gives an affecting performance in the title role, his acting is magnetic whether poignant, malevolent or mocking, his phrasing is elegant and he has a focused and well-coloured if not exactly conventional tone to his voice. Piotr Beczala is every bit as successful as the Duke, with a honeyed and ringing lyrical voice and the ability to be ardent and cynical. He makes an effort to make the Duke true to the spirit of the characterisation we are more familiar despite the production suggesting otherwise, which I admired.

Stefan Kocan is a sinister and authoritative Sparafucile, with his voice more rounded and darker-sounding than as it was before where I found it on the dry side. He at least manages to do something right, which was to leave a foreboding impression on Rigoletto, something that Monterone did not do so(despite the fact that he was the one who cursed him) for reasons I'll get onto later. Oksana Volkova makes a striking Met debut, with a rich mezzo voice and a seductive air about her which makes her rapport during the Act 3 quartet all the more convincing. But it is Diana Damrau who provides the best singing of the evening as Gilda, she sounds radiant and her colouratura in Caro Nomme dazzles. She is the epitome of youthfulness, hope and restlessness, without being overly-naive and ditsy. I also for one found the sets very ornate and audacious, setting the era of 1960s La Vegas perfectly, even if Act 2 is a little drab and the neon signs get too much eventually, and the HD as always looks great.

However, despite all this there are a number of failings. I didn't care for some of the costumes. The Duke's were fine, he worked within the concept. Poor Damrau looks very frumpy though here, considering how attractive she is you'd think the costume designers would be more accommodating towards her, looking more like a housewife than Rigoletto's daughter. Dressed in sweaters and trench-coats, Rigoletto could have very well just have been anybody to anybody unfamiliar with the opera, which was the main reason why the drama of Cortigiani was weakened considerably. And then there is Michael Mayer's stage direction. While it is not an original concept and it will leave traditionalists in a fury just reading about it, it did have some potential I thought. And oddly enough there are some good moments, the best being the Scene 2 encounter with Rigoletto and Sparafucile, that was both moving and intense as it should be. The duets between Rigoletto and his daughter are tender and Questa O Quella oozes with Rat-pack-style authenticity.

But it is overall rather muddled and succeeds only in generally trivialising the dramatic power of Rigoletto rather than enhancing it. I do think Rigoletto is poorly realised, not by Lucic who really makes the most of what he has but by Mayer. He could have been anyone judging by what he was wearing and milling around with the crowd in ensembles. In Cortigiani, Lucic clearly looks uncomfortable, and for the first time of seeing this scene being done it was directed in a way that made Rigoletto's entrance seem out of place. You even never know what Rigoletto's job is in this production either, anybody who knows the opera will know but anybody new to it will be either vague or oblivious to this. And you know that there is something wrong when the stereotypically offensive characterisation that is Monterone(as an Arab Skeikh) makes you laugh rather than coming across as a threat, which undermines the part where he curses the Duke and Rigoletto. That isn't the only problem with the concept, a lot of the problem is to do with practicalities that just proves that Rigoletto doesn't work in a modernised setting. To me plotting to kill a lounge-singer-type person that is the Duke here is nowhere near the same as doing the same with the most important person in Mantua. Having Gilda put in a Cadillac instead of a sack makes the situation much less desperate for Rigoletto, I can only believe the Duke in a church working in a traditional setting and abducting somebody from a sixth-floor apartment is going to be difficult to be carried off without the conspirators being seen.

Overall, disappointing. Outstanding musically with some moments, but muddled and people will question the practical side of the concept. 5/10 Bethany Cox


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