Rigoletto, Metropolitan Opera live cinema relay, 16 February 2013Posted on 17 February 2013
The idea of Rigoletto in early 1960s Las Vegas during the days of the Rat Pack made me apprehensive, but the superb sets by Christine Jones and costumes by Susan Hilferty won me over completely. Count Monterone as an Arab sheikh, the colourful tuxedos of the men, the stylish dark green and purple of Sparafucile’s two different costumes, and the vanity plate on his car gave a terrific sense of atmosphere, and I loved the neon rain and lightning for the storm outside Sparafucile’s tavern in Act III.
Quibbles later, but the singing was wonderful. Željko Lučić was a well toned Rigoletto, and Piotr Beczala as the Duke hit the high notes, and his soliloquy Ella mi fu rapita at the start of Act II — when for four or five minutes he regrets losing Gilda — was beautifully delivered. As Gilda herself, Diana Damrau sang very sweetly. The duet with her father Rigoletto in Act I formed a touching scene, and her later recollection of the Duke, using the false name he has given her, Gaultier Maldè … core innammorato! came through with a sweet naivety that reappeared at the end as she promises to pray for her father from heaven.
Keeping her sheltered from the wiles and wickedness of the Duke’s casino where he works is his business, but taking vengeance and deciding to be the instrument of Monterone’s curse is to take on the role of God. Yet there is only one god in this story, namely the Duke who exercises absolute power, or at least is supposed to. This didn’t quite manifest itself in Michael Mayer’s production, though that is a minor quibble.
However I liked the way Sparafucile was portrayed, and Štefan Kocán sang the role with great finesse. Oksana Volkova made a very colourful and sexy Maddalena, and Robert Pomakov gave a wonderful rendering of Monterone’s utterances. The Arabian gear was a clever notion, as was the idea of using the trunk of a car rather than a sack for the dead body, allowing the stage to be dark while the body was lit up with the trunk open.
The main problem for me came with a lack of operatic drama at the end when Rigoletto realises his daughter is the victim of his own plot. For one thing he just seemed too nice a guy to undertake a murder, and he didn’t seem sufficiently shocked that the body was that of his beloved daughter rather than the Duke. Perhaps Michele Mariotti’s conducting could have helped more here by giving a sense of trembling and urgency when Rigoletto sings Dio! … mia figlia. As it was the ending felt more like a that of a musical than a Verdi opera.