Rigoletto (Opera Review)
We saw Rigoletto at the Met last night, which was my first live opera experience ever, and I have to say, I dug it. The Met is a fantastic place to see a show: the building is beautiful, the acoustics are perfect, and they provide the translations on a small screen you can glance at right in front of you, so it’s a good time for experienced and beginner opera goers.
As when I reviewed Les Misérables last year, I will divide today’s review of Rigoletto into two sections: this production and the opera itself.
This production of Rigoletto
Opening last year and returning this season, the Met is currently giving us a Rat Pack sort of Rigoletto set in what seems like a 1960s styled Casino. Like 1996’s Romeo + Juliet, it’s just a wrapper – a new way for audiences to connect with material they already know. The sets, props, costumes and casino culture (drinking, drug use, that sorta thing) give the show a sense of levity that probably wouldn’t exist otherwise. The production also inserts comedy via the modified translations, which, while funny, at times seem to fade away to more traditional language, which makes things a bit uneven, but this is a minor complaint.
The seats at the Met could really use the Yankee Stadium treatment of angling them toward the action; if you’re near the side like I was and not sitting directly center, you kinda have to angle your body in a way that the seat is not set up to accommodate, which is a bummer, but…
Since there was not one, but two intermissions, there were ample times to stretch my legs. I don’t know anything about singing opera – maybe the folks need a few breaks, but I know a ton about putting on a live show and generally, two intermissions is never a good idea, particularly when the second and third acts aren’t especially long.
We were sitting in the second tier (the Grand Tier?) from the floor and we could see into the orchestra pit, which was, for me, totally awesome. I have had very few opportunities to see live strings, oboes, bassoons… that sort of thing, so that was a real treat. Watching those guys play was a blast.
I liked the show, but more often than not, I think that’s a tribute to the performers and designers who brought the show to life, but certain things about the story bugged me. For example, everyone keeps telling us that Rigoletto is funny rather than showing us that he is – he does two funny things, and one is so telegraphed that you see it coming a mile away. Mostly, he’s just something of a sad-sack. I also felt that bits of the story was a mess, especially the third act. For example, Maddalena’s suggestion that Sparafucile simply kill Rigoletto, take the money and just let the Duke go on his way is the logical choice, but instead, Sparafucile kills Gilda, a complete stranger to him, immediately. Even if Rigoletto had not heard the Duke singing “La donna è mobile” after his supposed murder, surely he would have found out he was double crossed the next morning…
Anyway, Rigoletto was a good time and I’m glad I went. Dr. Girlfriend figures she’ll have “La donna è mobile” stuck in her head for the next week or so, but anytime anyone even whistles the tune, I go right to this: