Last Saturday, I attended the Metropolitan Opera’s HD broadcast of Rigoletto at the Charles Theater. I was delighted to see that there wasn’t an empty seat in the room and the audience demographic ranged from high school to retirement age. As a fan of Rat Pack-era design, I was pretty excited about seeing this production, which is set in early 1960’s Las Vegas, and it not only met my expectations, it exceeded them.
The cast is fabulous, both vocally and theatrically. Piotr Beczala is so suave and charming as the Duke that one could easily see why all of the women in Mantua – er, Vegas – would fall for him. Diana Damrau is lovely as the pure, innocent Gilda, who longs to be a good daughter to her father, yet also wishes to be loved as a woman. Zelko Lucic’s Rigoletto is tragic, yet never pathetic, even when his desire for revenge leads to disaster.
Some theater-goers aren’t fans of “concept” productions – stagings that remove a piece from its original setting and/or historical context. I think they can be great as long as the concept is well thought out and has something to do with the plot and characters of the show. That said, I very much dislike the fact that some critics seem to believe updating certain theatrical genres (usually opera or Shakespeare) should practically be mandatory. When a review dismisses a production merely for being “traditional”, I roll my eyes.
The Met’s Rat Pack Rigoletto succeeds because it’s as strong musically as it is theatrically; as such, the drastic change of setting and period seems daring rather than gimmicky. Visually, it’s a stunningly beautiful show. Many members of the production staff, notably stage director Michael Mayer, set designer Christine Jones, and costumer Susan Hilferty, have considerable experience working on Broadway, yet the flashy staging doesn’t take away from Verdi’s music for a moment. Rigoletto runs through May 1 at the Met, but just two performances featuring the aforementioned cast remain.
Here’s Piotr Beczala singing Questa o Quella in Act 1 of Rigoletto.
Broadway, Charles Theater, concept production, Diana Damrau, Metropolitan Opera, Piotr Beczala, Rat Pack, Rigoletto, Verdi, Zeljko Lucic