Verdi's Rigoletto

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Saturday, February 16, 2013

Piotr Beczala as the Duke in Verdi's 'Rigoletto' Piotr Beczala as the Duke in Verdi's 'Rigoletto' (Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera)

This week's broadcast features one of the most talked-about new productions of the 2012-13 season. Verdi's Rigoletto, set in 16th century Mantua, is moved to Las Vegas during the 1960s.

Željko Lucic sings the title role and Diana Damrau is his beautiful daughter, who falls under the spell of Piotr Beczala’s womanizing Duke. Michael Mayer, best known for his work on Broadway musicals including Spring Awakening, directs this dramatic updating.

Cast:

Conductor: Michele Mariotti
Gilda: Diana Damrau
Maddalena: Oksana Volkova
Duke of Mantua: Piotr Beczala
Rigoletto: Željko Lucic
Sparafucile: Stefan Kocán

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Comments [13]

AF from Nassau County, Long Island

The Met's current manager, Peter Gelb, assume--mistakenly in my opinion--that updating an opera's setting will make it more understandable and inviting to the younger generation, which he is trying to attract to opera. But what is the age group that remembers the Rat Pack of Las Vegas of the 1960's? I remember it well, but I am 75!! But to the younger generation, it's ancient history!

Moreover (and worse), the undertones of the story of Rigoletto are far too sinister for the likes of Frank Sinatra, Joey Bishop, Don Rickels, Sammy Davis Jr, et al. I think a far-better "fit" for the "evil" that "lurks" (and what age group remembers that phrase from radio days?) was the update of Rigoletto (I think it was Johathan Miller's) to the mafia of (I think) the 1950's.

Feb. 17 2013 03:38 AM

Thank God there are brave people in the arts today who are willing to take chances with costume and set designs at the risk of disturbing the constipated purists and self proclaimed critics who demand that productions like Rigoletto remain in the dark ages. What a wonderful afternoon lying in bed listening to the Met live knowing that the 'purists' were stewing in their very expensive seats dying a thousand deaths over the modernization of this great opera. The crowd sounded wildly appreciative so it must not have been too great a tragedy. Thank you WQXR!

Feb. 16 2013 06:21 PM
Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, Boonton, NJ

THE CAST IS SUPERB. PARTICULARLY PIOTR BECZALA AS THE DUKE OF MANTUA, ZELJKO LUCIC AS RIGOLETTO AND DIANA DAMRAU AS GILDA. TIMBRE-WISE THERE WERE NO DISTINCTIVE MEMORABLE TONAL QUALITIES, BUT THEIR VOCAL TECHNIQUES SERVED THEM WELL. THE CONDUCTING MAINTAINED THE TRADITIONAL TEMPI. THE DUKE'S "DIO MIO POSSENTE" WAS WELL SUNG, BUT I MISSED THE HIGH C AT THE CLOSE OF THE STRETTA. I am a Wagnerian heldentenor, an opera composer, "Shakespeare" and "The Political Shakespeare" and director of the Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute

Feb. 16 2013 04:50 PM
Larry Eisenberg from New York City

The "genius" Director cannot,
Redrawing Rigoletto's plot,
This great work destroy,
A musical joy,
Restaging? Clearly not so hot.

Feb. 16 2013 03:25 PM
concetta nardone from Nassau County

CBC: Hope you are well. I've been away but now am back with a vengence.
Music very well done, singing fine. Production is a real "stronzata" as they say in Rome. This production is not original. The film Aria had a Elvis look alike singing LaDonna e Mobile.

Feb. 16 2013 03:24 PM
Ted Cerame from Perris, California

Mr. Cool Observer,
I agree with you and the others who understand that decadence must stop at, “The House.” Otherwise we are doomed. If there is any hope of upholding the worthy standards of grand Opera it is people like you that will stir up the music lovers of fine music to take a stand and through the power of the pen democratically let the powers that be in New York know that we object to allowing the standards of the Masters and of the “House,” to be brought down to the common denominator of the gutter.
For some time now a universal wave of decadence has been spreading like a cancer to all areas of society/culture. We have observed cycles like this throughout history. In the end the Earth will endure and the, “pinnacles,” of Art and Culture shall endure. I know that when we see this cheapening of our beloved Met we feel hopeless. But that which the King, Verdi and all the other Masters gave to the world has endured through the thick and thin of it, through pestilence, famine and the sword and shall continue on and make it through these decadent times.
“Build upon the old and the true before going on to the new,” says Novalis.
If the new General Manager is disillusioned to think that parlor tricks are
necessary to broaden the listening audience he is mistaken. Opera lovers have always been and shall always be a select minority.
Consider, how many souls have we met that understand the purity of Mozart, or the Literary excellence of Hawthorne or Dostoyevsky?
Thank you for your effective words and strong stand. It is about time that someone has told it like it is.
Good listening to all

Feb. 16 2013 02:01 PM
Ted Cerame from Perris, California

Mr. Cool Observer,
I agree with you and the others who understand that decadence must stop at, “The House.” Otherwise we are doomed. If there is any hope of upholding the worthy standards of grand Opera it is people like you that will stir up the music lovers of fine music to take a stand and through the power of the pen democratically let the powers that be in New York that we object to allowing the standards of the Masters and of the “House,” to be brought down to the common denominator of the gutter.
For some time now a universal wave of decadence has been spreading like a cancer to all areas of society/culture. We have observed cycles like this throughout history. In the end the Earth will endure and the, “pinnacles,” of Art and Culture shall endure. I know that when we see this cheapening of our beloved Met we feel hopeless. But that which the King, Verdi and all the other Masters gave to the world has endured through the thick and thin of it, through pestilence, famine and the sword and shall continue on and make it through these decadent times.
“Build upon the old and the true before going on to the new,” says Novalis.
If the new General Manager is disillusioned to think that parlor tricks are necessary to broaden the listening audience he is mistaken. Opera lovers have always been and shall always be a select minority.
Consider, how many souls have we met that understand the purity of Mozart, or the Literary excellence of Hawthorne or Dostoyevsky?
Thank you for your effective words and strong stand. It is about time that someone has told it like it is.
Good listening to all

Feb. 16 2013 01:19 PM

1st the opera was set in France but Verdi was forced to move it to Mantua. Who forced them to move it to Vegas???

Feb. 16 2013 01:05 PM

CBC Tempi cambi. the sop. & ten. are very good but wher have all the Verdi baritones gone? As for the sets, let's have a Ring on Saturn's Rings or a Butterfly in an arboretum. Last night the set designers were booed at the end of Parsifal. When is enough, enough? Change for the sake of change is stupid !

Feb. 16 2013 01:00 PM
Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, Boonton, NJ

GENARAL MANAGER PETER GELB, WE ALL HAVE GREAT RESPECT FOR WHAT YOU HAVE ACHIEVED BY YOUR HD IN REAL TIME PRESENTATIONS OF THE MET OPERA LIVE PERFORMANCES WORLD-WIDE IN HUNDREDS OF MOVIE THEATERS AND OTHER PERFORMING ARTS CENTERS, BUT PLEASE REFRAIN FROM PUTTING UNDER CONTRACT THOSE SELF-SERVING NARCISSTIC SET AND COSTUME DESIGNERS WHO WOULD DO ANYTHING TO SENSATIONALIZE THEIR OWN "ACHIEVEMENTS" BY CROSS-OVER PRODUCTIONS THAT CONTRADICT THE LIBRETTISTS' AND OPERA COMPOSERS' INTENTIONS. YOU ARE TOO GOOD A MAN, A MENSCH, WITH ALL YOUR PREVIOUS ACCOMPLISHMENTS, TO CONTINUE TO BARBARIANIZE THE MASTERPIECES OF OPERA. AUTHOR/COMPOSER HAD CHOSEN TO COMMUNICATE. NOT TO APPEAR TO BE A PRUDE PURIST, BUT FLASHY, SENSATIONALISM THOUGH IT MAY EXCITE ENTHUSIASM FOR THE UNIQUE, THE SPACED OUT, MAY ALSO SO CLASH WITH THE ORIGINAL INTENTIONS OF THE AUTHOR/COMPOSER THAT THE AUDIENCE WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO COMPREHEND WHAT THE GENERAL INTENTIONS WERE AND UPDATING THE STORY LINE AND CHANGING THE LOCALE CAN CONTRADICT WHAT THE MORES, CUSTOMS, OF THE ORIGINAL TIMES WOULD HAVE COMMANDEERED. I am a Wagnerian heldentenor, an opera composer, "Shakespeare" and "The Political Shakespeare" and director of the Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute. My websites where one may download my singing in four solo concerts at the Isaac Stern Auditorium of Carnegie Hall by going to Recorded Selections; www.WagnerOpera.com, www.ShakespeareOpera.com and www.RichardWagnerMusicDramaInstitute.com.
Roles that are represented in my singing to be heard on my websites are: Tristan, Siegfried, Goetterdaemmerung Siegfried, Lohengrin, Parsifal, Siegmund, Walther von Stolzing, Florestan, Federico and Eleazar.

Feb. 16 2013 11:43 AM
Hendrik E. Sadi from Yonkers, NY


I might add to my earlier comment about updating the scenery in an opera to a modern setting, that doing it, trivializes the composer's music and in the process insults him and the librettist.

Hendrik E. Sadi
Yonkers, NY

Feb. 16 2013 10:00 AM
Susan Renka from New Jersey


I so wanted to introduce my daughter to opera with Rigaletto, as she heard some of it once when I played it from a CD, and cried because of the story and music. However, after reading your "updated" and, frankly vulgar
version of such a beautiful story, I definitly changed mind. I won't even tske her to the live HD performance at the theatre near us. Please stop ruining those beautiful operas that have lasted for so long without all your interferance. Go back to the original version. As the saying goes, if it aint broke, don't fix it.

A dissapointed opera lover.
Susan Renka

Feb. 15 2013 10:25 PM
Hendrik E. Sadi from Yonkers, NY

What's next for Opera? Changing the composer's music?

If the intent of the Met's management is to increase the viewers by modernizing and jazzing up the scenery and the dialogue, it will not work.

People go to the opera because they love the human voice. And if you don't love the human voice you will not go to the opera or listen to it on the radio.

And no amount of modernizing and jazzing up the scenery or dialogue will change that.

Hendrik E. Sadi
Yonkers, NY

Feb. 09 2013 09:26 AM

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