I did not go to the Met's simulcast of their new Rigoletto last fall because 1. I really dislike Las Vegas and 2., I strongly believe changing a time and place by 400 years and 6,000 miles is a stage director's ego trip and unlikely to serve the original in a meaningful way. But I've been rethinking this production of Rigoletto after reading many positive comments and thinking about the possible parallels between a decadent Italian court and a decadent city of gamblers and the 1960s Rat Pack.
I have to say is was the the most moving Rigoletto I've seen. Michael Meyer's vision and a very contemporary translation in the subtitles worked very, very well. The video work was excellent (and owes much to the fact that most of this set was brilliantly lit, in contrast to some of the atmospheric, gloomy sets I've seen and disliked. Opera singers have to be actors today and this cast of European singers were very good actors although it was quite a stretch for Gilda (German Diana Dramrau) who is surely in her 30s with the body of a woman that age, to sometimes display the innocence and naivete of a protected teenager, but she mostly pulled it off. She has a lovely voice. The Duke, not royalty but a singer with a retineu of empty headed lackeys, was Zelijo Lucic, obviously East European although I don't know the country. He has a smooth and engaging tenor. I didn't get the name of the scarily snake-like Sparofucile who had a wonderful light bass voice and suave beard and sideburns. Best of all Rigoletto was Piotr Beczale (Russian, I think). A wondeful voice, a fine actor. So sincerely troubled, so quick to be frightened by Monterone's curse and then to beg for his kidnapped daughter. So grasping and loving a father and finally utterly destroyed by the cruelty of the ending brought about by his desire for vengence (more 16th century than 21st).
Oh, the ending -- always a problem. Verdi's violins sob and I choke up but my head is saying that her throat was cut, how is she rallying and singing for five minutes? That beautiful line about praying from him along side her mother in heaven (preferably with out the words) could make a concete block cry. I'm emotionally drained, but in the good way opera can do it. So glad I saw this opera.