NEW YORK: Verdi goes Vegas in a flashy new production of the opera “Rigoletto” at the Metropolitan Opera in New York that features neon lights, a Cadillac and a naked cabaret dancer.
Tony award-winning director Michael Mayer has moved the original story from 16th century Italy to 1960s Sin City. His gamble appears to have paid off with audiences, although theater critics are not so sure.
One of Giuseppe Verdi's masterpieces, the opera tells the tragic story of the deformed jester Rigoletto in the court of the Duke of Mantua, his beautiful daughter Gilda and a twisted love triangle involving the duke and a courtier.
Mayer said the piece translated naturally to the Nevada desert, or, more specifically, to a hotel and casino in America's gambling capital. “What is the cultural equivalent to the world of this opera? It's licentious, it's decadent, it's a world where women are basically play things and sexual objects,” Mayer said. “It's a place where there is a lot of glamour, a lot of money and power and sex and violence, a place where there is a culture of luck and belief in superstition. So, I thought of Las Vegas, of course.”
"I believe it's really worth reimagining the great classics in a fresh way that can illuminate aspects of the story or the score or the characters in a way that the people can relate to in a contemporary way,” he added. In this version, the duke appears at the start of the performance in a white dinner jacket that references Frank Sinatra, duke of the famous Rat Pack of entertainers who ruled the roost in Vegas in the 1950s.
Among other modern features, Gilda is kidnapped and hidden in a sarcophagus, and a vintage Cadillac's trunk is eventually used to hide her dead body, accompanied by powerful neon lighting in the final scene.
At the opening night performance on Monday there were frequent interruptions for applause, not to mention hoots of excitement at the start of the third act when the cabaret dancer strips half naked.
But critics were not quite so taken with the experiment.
The New York Times' Anthony Tommasini said “the production was a frustrating mix of inventive and half-baked thinking.”Joe Dziemianowicz, from the Daily News, said “the Met's much-hyped 'Rigoletto' is a dazzler and a downer. It gleams with vivid neon and vibrant singing.
It is clouded by lethargy. A jackpot, it's not.”On February 16, “Rigoletto” will be broadcast live to 1,900 movie theaters in 64 countries around the world as part of the Met's program to broaden its audience.
Last season the Met showed 11 operas in a total of 54 countries.