Breckenridge: Classic opera infused with a Las Vegas vibe
Ryan Summerlin February 14, 2013
Verdi’s familiar and melodic opera “Rigoletto” will be the next Metropolitan HD simulcast, scheduled for 11:05 a.m. on Saturday at the Finkel Auditorium at Colorado Mountain College in Breckenridge. Opera traditionalists may be a bit apprehensive, as the staging of this production has been moved into the 21st century, to Las Vegas of all places.
The stage manager of this current production, Michael Mayer, said in a recent interview: “I’ve tried to imagine a recent world that captures the decadence of the 16th century Duke’s palace, where the participants are in pursuit of power, money, and beauty. Las Vegas in the ’60s is such a world, where a kind of prankster energy could go bad-it’s the epitome of the kinds of events that happen in ‘Rigoletto.'”
The opera opens in a casino, with a neon-lit background packed with confluent multi-colored words and cartoon-like sketches. Soon to appear stage center is the Duke, played by Piotr Beczala, who is described in a recent New York Times review as “big, beautiful tenor with great presence.” This becomes evident when Beczala, acting like a Sanatra-esque playboy in a stylish white tuxedo, is surrounded by dancing showgirls bearing huge multi-colored, feathered pompoms, as he sings the boastful aria, “Questa o quella”: “I give my heart no more to one beauty than to another.”
Yet he falls immediately in love with the beautiful Countess Ceprano, played by soprano Ealie Savoy.
Rigoletto, played by Zeljko Lucic, a personification of the court jester, appears on the scene wearing an out-of-place, loud yellow sweater. Key to the plot is a curse Rigoletto receives from visiting Count Monterone, dressed as an Arab shiek, who was ridiculed for being incensed that the Duke had seduced his daughter. Rigoletto’s daughter Gilda next appears, played by Diana Damrau, described in a New York Times review as “singing her role radiantly with youthful yearning and restlessness.”
As the plot thickens, Gilda, thought to be Rigoletto’s mistress, is abducted by courtiers with the blindfolded Rigoletto unknowingly taking part, where an elevator rather than a latter is used in the production. The hit man, Sparafucile, sung by Stefan Kocan, first seen sitting at the casino bar while listening to Rigoletto’s plight, is ultimately hired to assassinate the Duke. In the classical production, Gilda instead of the Duke is mistakenly assassinated in the end, and her body stuffed into a bag. When carrying the bag away to dispose of the Duke, Rigoletto hears in the background his voice singing the familiar aria, “La Donne e Mobile,” immediately realizing his mistake.
The classic closing scene has Rigoletto opening a bag only to find his daughter. In this production, the bag had been dumped into the trunk of a fantailed Cadillac. In the end, Rigoletto sings, “my daughter-ah the curse!”
With these differences of Rigoletto, staged in the Rat Pack heyday of 1960s Las Vegas, has received the following accolade in a Bloomberg review, “It’s impossible not to like the new production. It’s wildly entertaining, inventive, strangely funny and yet also deeply sad. Mayer captures both the emotional depth and surface glitter in an audacious staging.” This appraisal is a timely invite to attend this production, both for the seasoned followers and for those new to opera.
Light snacks and beverages will be served during the intermission.