“Rigoletto” by Verdi: be nice to each other…

MET Opera House building–Lincoln Center/Tuesday January 4th, 2022.

Happy New Year!

Welcome back friends, And welcome this week again, to the wonderful world of opera!

Yay!!!

And this week, yet again, welcome back to classic opera!!!

Yay! yay! yay!

So happy!

Always great, to rediscover one of the most powerful, and awesome operatic work of all times!

That’s right!

Dark, decadent, depraved, and incredibly tragic; yet in “Rigoletto”, what gorgeous enduring music as well, from beautiful, hopeful, melodious arias, duets, or a robust and chilling quartet, or even mighty chorus creations!

Yay! and wow wow, wow!!!

One of my favorite works, from the highly acclaimed musical genius and icon, Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901).

Yay! yay! yay!

The darkest of his works, in my opinion, based on Victor Hugo’s 1832 play “Le roi s’amuse”; yet also some of the richest, most elegant and somber music ever written, with a wonderfully poetic libretto, from Francesco Maria Piave (1810-1876), a long term collaborator of Verdi’s, for as many as 10 operas (including “la Traviata”, “La Forza del destino” or “Macbeth”)!

Wow!

So again, yay, yay, yay! to Verdi’s 1851, and yet timeless, three act “Rigoletto” opera; a tale about a cursed, sharp tongued, mocking, taunting, hunchbacked “court jester” to the powerful, self absorbed, womanizing, duke of Mantua (instead of Hugo’s François 1er, to outsmart Austrian censorship), and yet Rigoletto, in the private sphere, is also a protective, warm and loving, widowed father.

Wow!

Therefore, Rigoletto’s public, sneering comments “in court”, will lead him eventually, to be terrifyingly cursed, and a tragic outcome for him and his daughter, is soon to follow, reminding everyone, that decency, empathy towards others, and wisdom, are all great virtues, which allow, alongside intelligence, and drive, for more happiness in life.

Wow!

How about that?

So how to summarize the plot, and what to say of this new “Rigoletto” production?

In Act 1, in a new, elegant, yet often intentionally dark, stunning and sophisticated, Bartlett Sher production, set during the late 1920’s, in Germany, at an Art Deco palace (it could also telegraph, as a “Great Gatsby” American party, if you ask me), on a large rotating set (beautifully designed by Michael Yeargan), and perfectly and astutely lit (by lighting designer Donald Holder), we meet many elegant “courtiers” (beautiful costumes as well, by Catherine Zuber) gossiping and partying together, along with a narcissistic, boastful, womanizing duke, dancing with a gorgeous, radiant, and graceful woman, Countess Ceprano.

Wow!

The duke truly believes, that his heart will never be owned by anyone, and explains that he is only moved by beauty, in all of its forms, which he loves to conquer, and despises fidelity.

Oh boy!

Let’s now listen to the duke’s famous aria about these views, (the first two minutes of this fun, and set in a totally different time/era excerpt, sung here, a few years ago, by the great Pavarotti):

Oh boy!

Enjoy the gorgeous music!

The “court” gossips about everyone attending, and also mocks, the hunchbacked and cynical “court jester”, called “Rigoletto”, suspected of keeping at home, a young mistress (in fact, she is a young woman, called Gilda, and Rigoletto’s very own young daughter).

Oh boy!

“Rigoletto” during the party, ridicules as well, a few other “courtiers”, including the “duped” Count Ceprano, and in particular, viciously “bullies” as well, another courtier, Monterone, who wants to denounce the duke, for seducing also, in addition to the duke’s numerous other conquests, his (Monterone’s) very own young daughter.

Oh boy!

Monterone is arrested, and curses Rigoletto.

Oh boy!

Rigoletto, on his way back home, upset by Monterone’s disturbing “curse”, encounters in the neighborhood a professional assassin, Parafucile, who offers his services. Rigoletto dismisses him, and gets back to his simple and warm home.

Oh boy!

Rigoletto once home, greets lovingly his daughter Gilda, asks her to stay put, in the house, afraid for Gilda’s safety, and then leaves the house.

Oh boy!

The duke then appears in Rigoletto’s courtyard, and there, declares his love for Gilda, both, having briefly admired each other in church, and Gilda thinking the duke, a poor student; both having fallen fast, convincingly, and deeply, for each other, opening each other’s heart, and igniting for Gilda, an enduring hope, despite the fear of loving.

Oh boy! oh boy! oh boy!

A tad fast perhaps?

Yet, what beautiful words between the two love birds.

Especially this beautiful and sunny idea and episode, which contrasts with the opera’s huge, growing, engulfing, and dramatic darkness:

“Love is the sunshine of the soul”.

How about that?

Wow! and Yay!

Let’s now, listen to one of the most beautiful love aria ever written, which Gilda sings delicately and with feeling, about her newfound love, just before retiring back to her room. Admire as well, the powerful men’s chorus at the end of the aria, also incredibly beautiful (And here, first, this “Caro Nome” aria is sang at the MET by Nadine Sierra, from the Vegas 60’s Mayer production, preceding this new Sher production):

Enjoy!

As the duke leaves, the “courtiers” gather outside Rigoletto’s home, intending to abduct Rigoletto’s “mistress” Gilda (in fact, Rigoletto’s daughter, let me remind you). The courtiers then stumble upon Rigoletto, on the street walk, and fool him into wearing a blindfold and holding a ladder, and then carry off the abducted Gilda.

Oh boy!

Rigoletto then, rushing back home, realizes his daughter Gilda is missing, and remembers Monterone’s chilling and unsettling curse.

Oh boy!

Let’s listen to the terrific chorus melody “Zitti, zitti”, from yet another production, from a few years back yet again, during Gilda’s abduction, and let’s listen also, to Rigoletto’s despair.

Oh boy!

What awesome music, yet again.

Wow!

Enjoy!

https://youtu.be/EcahVkOxJUU

In Act 2, the duke of Mantua is at first, disturbed by Gilda’s abduction, the duke realizing, he was on the brink of being convinced, to lead a virtuous life with Gilda; having fallen deeply in love with Gilda, and whom he considers then and there, pure, and an angel.

Wow!

What a shame!

Instead, as the courtiers tell the duke, that Gilda is now in the duke’s bedroom, the duke hurries off to his quarters.

Oh boy!

Of course, otherwise there would be way less tension, and real darkness to this opera.

Oh boy!

But still, one could have hoped for a “tamed” duke, tamed by love.

But no.

Oh boy!

Rigoletto then, enters the duke’s palace, looking for Gilda. He tells the bewildered courtiers, that Gilda is his daughter, and appeals to their compassion.

Oh boy!

So moving of course.

Gilda then appears, and runs to her father, and when all others have left, she tells her father of the duke’s courtship, and then of her abduction. Gilda then, begs her father to forgive the duke.

Oh boy!

In Act 3, Rigoletto and Gilda enter an inn, where Sparafucile (the assassin who Rigoletto met earlier in the opera), and his sister Maddalena (a prostitute), live.

Oh boy!

The duke (of Mantua) is inside, amusing himself with Maddalena, and sings of the fickleness of women (here Maddalena is compared to a feather, not quite the angel, the duke was imagining, when he sang to Gilda).

Oh boy!

Let’s now listen to this famous “La donna e mobile” aria, about the fickleness of women, here again, sang by the awesome Pavarotti, a few years ago, as the dashing and seductive duke (of Mantua):

Enjoy!

Rigoletto sends then, his daughter Gilda, disguised as a boy, to Verona, and pays Sparafucile to murder the duke.

Oh boy!

Disguised Gilda returns to the inn, before heading out to Verone, and overhears Maddalena, urge her brother Sparafucile, to spare the duke she is “enamored” with, and murder Rigoletto instead. Sparafucile refuses, but agrees to strike the next stranger to walk into the inn, to be able to produce a dead body. Gilda decides then and there, to sacrifice herself, as she knocks on the inn’s door. Disguised Gilda is instantly stabbed.

Oh no!

Gasp! gasp! gasp!

Rigoletto returns to the inn, to claim the body (whom he thinks is the duke), when suddenly, from afar, Rigoletto hears the duke sing with delight, a shortened “encore” of his light hearted aria “La donna e mobile”.

Oh no!

Gasp, gasp, gasp!

Rigoletto then, frantically tears open the “body bag”, and finds instead of the duke, his own daughter, who is dying. Gilda asks her father, for his forgiveness, and dies suddenly.

Oh no!

Gasp! gasp! gasp!

In shock, Rigoletto remembers Monterone’s wicked curse.

Gasp! gasp! gasp!

What to say about the singers?

That all of them, including the chorus, were, as was the orchestra, beautifully conducted, under Daniele Rustioni’s baton.

Yay! yay! yay!

Also, last Tuesday evening, Rigoletto was replaced at the last moment, by American baritone Michael Chioldi, replacing for a few evenings, another American baritone, Quinn Kelsey.

Wow! and yay!

Chioldi was a convincing Rigoletto, especially as a loving concerned father, and not quite as commanding as a cynical court jester, in Act 1, but extremely moving, in the last two acts.

Yay! yay! yay!

Italian soprano, Rosa Feola, was incredible as Gilda, such warm and juvenile sound, and beautiful color and technique; what a great actress as well: as convincing, as a young love bird, than as a loving daughter.

Wow! wow! wow!

And of course, as always, handsome and charming Polish tenor Piotr Beczala, was a terrific duke, perhaps, too likeable, but it makes for an even more nuanced performance, in my mind, that way!

Yay!

So, to sum up my feelings, about Verdi’s monumental “Rigoletto”, admired last Tuesday, at the MET Opera, in great company: what an extraordinary, devastating, ghastly, and moving tale, set to awesomely beautiful music, intricate arias, and including at times even, unusual sound effects (including mimicking sounds of a raging storm, from the chorus); and what an elegant production; enhancing the constant tension between the light found from love, and the darkness of the curse, reminding everyone, to just be nice with each other in life, to find peace, happiness and serenity.

Wow!

And yay! yay! yay!

Just grand!

Happy New Year!

Until next time friends!

Soft…

Fluttering…

Sunny…

Joyful…

Happy…

Loving…

Eternal butterflies 😊