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Our motto: "Critical thinking in the cheap seats." Unbiased, honest classical music and opera opinions, occasional obituaries and classical news reporting, since 2007. All written content © 2019 by Paul J. Pelkonen. For more about Superconductor, visit this link. For advertising rates, click this link. Follow us on Facebook.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Metropolitan Opera Preview: Rigoletto

Verdi's great tragedy returns for another round at the Vegas tables.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
The next whiskey bar: George Gagnifze knocks one back as Rigoletto.
Photo by Richard Termine © 2018 The Metropolitan Opera.
Verdi's tragedy of a hunchback laboring under a curse and the tyrannical rule of his philandering boss, presented here in the strange disguise of two entertainers working in a rug joint on the Las Vegas Strip. Here, the titular jester is an insult comic á la Don Rickles, and his boss is a lounge lizard singer in the mode of Frank Sinatra.

What is Rigoletto?
When taken away from the bright lights of Vegas, Rigoletto is one of the great opera tragedies, Rigoletto combines traumatic events with hummable tunes. It was the opera that broke Giuseppe Verdi into the stratosphere and remains at the core of the repertory of any opera house.

What's Rigoletto about?
Based on a play by Victor Hugo, Rigoletto is the story of a hunchbacked jester in service to the Duke of Mantua. That ruler's love 'em and leave 'em policy makes him like Don Giovanni without the class. Rigoletto's efforts to protect his daughter Gilda from his boss prove futile as she is kidnapped and raped. Vowing revenge, the jester pays an assassin to take out his boss, but the plan backfires in the worst possible way.

What's the music like?
Verdi threw out the 19th century opera rulebook in writing Rigoletto, substituting dialogue for recitative and dramatic soliloquys for the more traditional aria structure. That said, he peppered the opera with memorable tunes: the Duke's "Quest'o quella" and "La donna é mobilé", and Gilda's lovely aria "Caro nome."

Who's in it?
A new Rigoletto, baritone Roberto Frontali sings the title role in the first run. Veteran baritone George Gagnidze sings the remaining dates. Nadine Sierra and Rosa Feola play the doomed daughter Gilda. Depending on when you see the opera, the Duke is played by Vittorio Grigolo or Bryan Hymel. Nicola Luisotti conducts all dates.

How's the production?
Michael Mayer's neon-lit martini-fueled production of Rigoletto updates the action to the 1960s and uproots the whole sleazy "Mantua" court to Las Vegas. The Duke is reimagined as an entertainer at the center of his own Rat Pack. Rigoletto is his "Don Rickles", the comic who warms up the audience and fall guy. Gilda is...well, Gilda--pretty, helpless and locked in their hotel suite by her overprotective father who knows just how dangerous the street of Sin City are.

Why should I see it?
No matter where it's set, Rigoletto remains one of the great opera tragedies, the story of a father who loves his daughter so much that he accidentally engineers...oh hell I'm not going to spoil the last act for you. Go see it, and wait for your heart to jump into your mouth in the third act.

When does it open?
The Met's Vegas production of Rigoletto returns to the Met on February 12, 2018. The second cast takes the stage on April 26.

Where can I get tickets?
Tickets  are available through MetOpera.Org or by calling the box office at (212) 362-6000. You can save service fees by going to the box office in person at the Met itself, located at 30 Lincoln Center Plaza. Hours: Monday to Saturday: 10am-8pm, Sunday: 12pm-6pm.

Which recording should I get?
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