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Rigoletto Returns to Vegas

New York
Metropolitan Opera
10/20/2015 -  & October 23, 28, 31, November 4, 7, 10, 13, 16, 19, December 2, 5, 12, 17, 2015
Giuseppe Verdi: Rigoletto
Stephen Costello (Duke), Richard Troxell (Borsa), Katherine Whyte (Countess Ceprano), George Gagnidze (Rigoletto), David Crawford (Count Ceprano), Stefan Szkafarowsky (Monterone), Jeff Mattsey (Marullo), Stefan Kocan (Sparafucile), Olga Peretyatko (Gilda), Maria Zifchak (Giovanna), Katarina Leoson (Maddalena),
The Metropolitan Opera Chorus, Donald Palumbo (chorus master), The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Pablo Heras-Casado (conductor)
Michael Mayer (production), Christine Jones (set designer), Susan Hilferty (costume designer), Kevin Adams (lighting designer), Steven Hoggett (choreographer)

O. Peretyatko, G. Gagnidze (© Richard Termine/Metropolitan Opera)

Among the few productions of the Peter Gelb era to leave a lasting impression is Michael Mayer’s update of Verdi’s classic revenge tale from Renaissance Mantua to 1960s Las Vegas. Loud, bright, garish, and visually dazzling, the effort nevertheless continues to underserve the work. Renaissance refinement, suggested by a graceful undercurrent throughout the court scenes, easily gets lost in Vegas vulgarity. The curse so central to the plot (Verdi nearly called the opera La maledizione) undoubtedly had meaning to both Victor Hugo’s original characters in their Renaissance milieu and to the nineteenth-century audiences who drank in Verdi’s music. But in our own degraded times, would a father’s curse really bother a mobbed up comedian? It would probably just get another laugh. Here it continues to fall flat.

The revival, seen at its opening on October 20, still succeeded thanks to a mostly excellent choice of cast. George Gagnidze has sung the title role around the world and remains a solidly gifted Verdi baritone. His vocal range readily matched the character’s searing emotional spin. Rigoletto’s sacred space is his daughter Gilda, and in the beautiful soprano Olga Peretyatko the Met filled the role with a truly exceptional talent. Floating crystal clear notes over the driving orchestra, she ornamented the vocal line with exquisitely well executed appoggiatura. From a dramatic point of view, Peretyatko personified a confused young woman in love, performing the signature aria "Caro nome" lying akimbo as though she were writing her solo lines like so many thoughts in her diary. Her torn sensibilities were completely on display in the final act, in which she decides to sacrifice herself to save the callow duke despite his obvious romantic wandering.

The only weak link among the principals was that callow duke. Although tenor Stephen Costello added a warm, rosy voice, the part’s signature high notes eluded him on almost every occasion. His dramatic persona also veered rather too heavily into the rare bout of sensitivity in which the character indulges in the reflective aria "Parmi veder le lagrime," an uncharacteristic appreciation of Gilda’s sweetness. Too often he looked like the last thing Verdi’s duke should be: a nice guy, in this case one who would probably help you move if you asked him nicely. After Costello’s recent and more pleasing appearances as Percy in Donizetti’s Anna Bolena, he may well be moving outside his comfort zone. Stefan Kocan’s stentorian Sparafucile remains an admirable fixture of the production. Mezzo Katarina Leoson made an excellent debut in the seductive role of Maddalena. Conductor Pablo Heras-Casado led a tight and energetic performance.

Paul du Quenoy



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