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Thread: Rigoletto at the Met, Spring Cast (Gagnidze-Grigolo-Oropesa)

          
   
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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Rigoletto at the Met, Spring Cast (Gagnidze-Grigolo-Oropesa)

    This review is of the 855th Metropolitan Opera performance of Rigoletto, on May 1, 2013

    Marco Armiliato conducted the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra; Donald Palumbo was the Chorus Master
    Directed by Michael Mayer, Met debut, new production
    Set designer Christine Jones
    Costume Designer Susan Hilferty
    Lighting Designer Kevin Adams

    The Duke - Vittorio Grigolo
    Rigoletto - George Ganidze
    Gilda - Lisette Oropesa
    Sparafucile - Enrico Giuseppe Iori
    Maddalena - Nancy Fabiola Herrera
    Countess Ceprano - Walis Giunta (Lindemann member)
    Borsa - Alexander Lewis (Lindemann member)

    ------------

    This updated production sets the opera in Las Vegas in 1960. It opened on January 28, 2013, with Michele Mariotti conducting, and Diana Damrau, Piotr Beczala, and Zeljko Lucic. It was shown on Met Live in HD and is out on DVD already (sort of a record, it made it into DVD pretty fast!). I somehow managed to stay away from it completely, catching the very last performance on May 1st, with a different cast, and Maestro Armiliato at the pit.

    Sets are done with extensive use of neon, and are visually pleasing. First act is set to the main floor of a casino and is of course very colorful and brightly lit. Second act in the backroom of a casino has the nice touch of chandeliers that look like the Met's. Sparafucile's place in act III is a square without walls, only the frame is shown, which works well for the action outside and inside it. The neon lighting contributes to the depiction of stormy weather and is quite effective; also, Gilda's body is placed in the trunk of a vintage car. In spite of all the glitter, the dark atmosphere of the opera is still preserved. I liked the sets and costumes. In the case of one pole dancer, the costumes are, well, almost not there, in a rare case of display of extensive female nudity at the Met (outside of Salome). It is brief and in my humble opinion appropriate to the Las Vegas setting. I don't think one should make a controversy out of it (it would never be one, if this opera house were located in Europe). Other costumes were what is to be expected from the time and place, and were fine. Monterone was dressed in Arab garb, like a wealthy sheik.

    Other than the updated setting, there is no additional directorial concept (well, except for one little detail - the Duke snorts cocaine in one of the scenes). The characters and relationships are depicted exactly as Verdi, Piave, and Victor Hugo intended. We've discussed extensive on Opera Lively what should be considered Regie, and in spite of the fact that strictly speaking any deviation from the original implemented by a stage director qualifies as Regie, in my personal definition merely updating an opera without changing anything else is not sufficient (for me) to think of a production under this term (or at the very least, this one is not what I call "extreme Regie"). What is changed in this one makes sense in terms of the debauchery that the original intended to depict, so, all is good, and I see this show as a regular Rigoletto, with some visually interesting, fun scenery, but with no displaced humor or excessive titillation - and most importantly, no divorce between the music and the concept, and no distortion of the story. The main point, for me, is that Rigoletto is a dark opera, and like I said, it remained so, which is essential for a successful rendition of this piece.

    Blocking works very well in this production. The movements of the chorus are well coordinated, the entrances and exits are finely executed, and delimitation of stage space is nicely done.

    Visually, therefore, it's a good show. But not earth-shattering. Think of it as just a successful update.

    Acting was mostly good across the board, although the title role (Ganidze) could have used more dramatic impact and more intensity of emotions, especially in third act, and Herrera's Maddalena also failed to impress. Oropesa was appropriately angelical and fragile, and Grigolo was debauched enough in the scenes where this is required, and impetuous and romantic enough when he was trying to seduce Gilda in first act. Iori's Sparafucile was scary and had the right thug look. In the very small role of Countess Ceprano and in a Marilyn Monroe impersonation, Wallis Giunta impressed for her extreme beauty - another very attractive singer in the making. The stunning mezzo indeed doubles as a top model, and in addition to her training at the Lindemann (also simultaneously at Juilliard) she works for one of the haute-couture organizations. She is depicted below at the Met dress room, wearing the same outfit as in her scene. By the way, she sang well her few lines.

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    Photo Credit MIV Photography / Elizabeth Bowman

    Musically, this specific performance was rather on the good side, and the fact that I was seeing an alternative cast didn't disappoint at all. Maestro Armiliato is a very good Verdi conductor and the orchestra was fine as usual. Lisette Oropesa was a compelling Gilda, with beautiful coloratura and purity of tone. Her Caro Nome was fine and drew prolonged applause, and she was very well received by the Met audience during curtain calls - it is always nice to see a Lindemann graduate getting a leading role and doing so well - I love it when the Met propels young American singers to stardom. Opera Lively interviewed her two days ago - she is intelligent and articulate, with some nice insights about Gilda - we're badly backlogged in terms of transcriptions so this interview will take a while to appear, but stay tuned.

    Vittorio Grigolo had an issue here and there in his singing (still cold during Questa o Quella, and attacking La Donna Mobile too fast at first - the Maestro seems to have reined him in immediately - I was close and had a pretty clear view of the Maestro, and I thought I was able to catch a signal in the general sense of "whoa, whoa, slow down, slow down!" - of course I can't pretend to be right about it, but that's the impression I had - Armiliato seemed as startled as I was with Grigolo's sudden and speedy attack; took his eyes off the orchestra and made contact with the singer directly while making a sort of descending hand gesture, and the singer did slow down, and completed the aria more skilfully than his beginning indicated.

    Otherwise I was very pleasantly surprised with Mr. Grigolo. So far I had only heard him on CD, and had read the occasional comment that his voice is well honed and with good pitch control and phrasing, but it is not potent enough in the opera house. Well, I don't know where this notion comes from, although my judgment again may be clouded by my seat being very close to the stage this time so no wonder I could hear him well, but I bet that even up there in the back of the Family Circle, Vittorio could be heard loud and clear. After having heard him live, I don't think he has a small voice at all. I thought of him as a very nice Italianate tenor with a good instrument, and convincing stage presence.

    I have less enthusiastic praise for Mr. Gagnidze. The experienced baritone from Georgia did a perfectly good job, but just wasn't as thrilling as some favorites of mine in the role. Nancy Fabiola Herrera in the role of Maddalena for me was the weakest link, and tended to disappear during the quartet. Enrico Giuseppe Iori's Sparafucile, on the other hand, was thoroughly satisfactory.

    I very much enjoyed this show. It's not the best Rigoletto I've seen, but it is still pretty good.

    I'll add some production pictures to this post, later on.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Opera Lively Coordinator - Donor Member Top Contributor Member tyroneslothrop's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Almaviva View Post
    In the case of one pole dancer, the costumes are, well, almost not there, in a rare case of display of extensive female nudity at the Met (outside of Salome). It is brief and in my humble opinion appropriate to the Las Vegas setting. I don't think one should make a controversy out of it (it would never be one, if this opera house were located in Europe).
    I make a controversy over this only because pole dancing is anachronistic for the 1960s era of the Rat Pack. There was no burlesque pole dancing in the 1960s, whether in Las Vegas or anywhere else. Erotic pole dancing only started over twenty years later, and then in Canada. Since in general in the production, the director obviously sought temporal congruity, I can only assume the pole dancer was added to the mix for shock value and titillation despite being a prochronism.

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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tyroneslothrop View Post
    I make a controversy over this only because pole dancing is anachronistic for the 1960s era of the Rat Pack. There was no burlesque pole dancing in the 1960s, whether in Las Vegas or anywhere else. Erotic pole dancing only started over twenty years later, and then in Canada. Since in general in the production, the director obviously sought temporal congruity, I can only assume the pole dancer was added to the mix for shock value and titillation despite being a prochronism.
    Oh, in that case, yes, you are right. Although, I imagine that nudity in Las Vegas has been a staple of the place ever since it got populated with casinos and cabarets. Maybe it could have been done minus the pole.

    Here are some production pictures, credit Cory Weaver / Metropolitan Opera, courtesy of the Met Press Department:

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    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Name:  F2A6178-L.jpg
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    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Opera Lively Coordinator - Donor Member Top Contributor Member tyroneslothrop's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Almaviva View Post
    In the very small role of Countess Ceprano and in a Marilyn Monroe impersonation, Wallis Giunta impressed for her extreme beauty - another very attractive singer in the making. The stunning mezzo indeed doubles as a top model, and in addition to her training at the Lindemann (also simultaneously at Juilliard) she works for one of the haute-couture organizations. She is depicted below at the Met dress room, wearing the same outfit as in her scene. By the way, she sang well her few lines.

    Name:  906365_511454758901787_1721017592_o-1020x1360.jpg
Views: 58
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    Photo Credit MIV Photography / Elizabeth Bowman
    Nice! I found the soprano, Emalie Savoy, from the first cast to be also quite a good Countess Ceprano, channeling Marilyn Monroe:
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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Indeed, and she has some large cough cough assets cough!
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Opera Lively Coordinator - Donor Member Top Contributor Member tyroneslothrop's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Almaviva View Post
    Indeed, and she has some large cough cough assets cough!
    Yes, although it looks identical, clearly Wallis Giunta and Emalie Savoy did not share the same dress

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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Funny enough, when I was flying back home on Delta, their magazine had an article on Las Vegas, and I learned that topless dancing started there in 1957. A black-and-white picture did seem to show a pole.

    A couple of other pictures, just to test some trouble I was having uploading large files:

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    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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