Rigoletto hits Vegas
Metropolitan Opera House
11/11/2013 - & November 15, 18, 21*, 27, 30, December 4, 7, 2013
Giuseppe Verdi: Rigoletto
Matthew Polenzani (The Duke), Dmitri Hvorostovsky (Rigoletto), Sonya Yoncheva (Gilda), Stefan Kocan (Sparafucile), Oksana Volkova (Maddalena), Alexander Lewis (Borsa), Wallis Giunta (Countess Ceprano), Jeff Mattsey (Marullo), David Crawford (Count Ceprano), Robert Pomakov (Monterone), Maria Zifchak (Giovanna)
The Metropolitan Opera Chorus, Donald Palumbo (chorus master), The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Pablo Heras-Casado (conductor)
Michael Mayer (production), Christine Jones (set designer), Susan Hilferty (costume designer), Kevin Adams (lighting designer), Steven Hoggett (choreographer)
(Courtesy of the Metropolitan Opera )
Michael Mayer's "Vegas" production of Verdi's tale of revenge returns to the Met the season after it premiered. A colorful, clever effort, it does much to fit the opera's themes of sexual outrage and vindictive, if unsuccessful, revenge taking. Going after a kind of mob boss/lounge singer who has raped the daughter of one of his acolytes could easily fit the Rat Pack-filled headlines. But on some levels it just does not fit. Verdi's court, based on Victor Hugo's, is a place of refined Renaissance pleasure and traditional European codes of honor that have nothing to do with Las Vegas. Only extraordinarily creative reinterpretations of the libretto could give us a world where Countess Ceprano's "movie star looks" could "really light up a room."
The title role went to the venerable baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky, who has publicly stated his intention of becoming the greatest Verdi baritone in the world. The pretensions are not misplaced. The voice has thickened somewhat over the years, leading in some cases to muffled sounds, but in the role of Rigoletto his superb legato and skilled high tessitura singing bore rapier-sharp excitement. Costumed with a wig that suggested the thinning hair of a middle aged man may have gone a bit too far to stop him from playing essentially himself, but every scene in which he appeared commanded imperturbable attention.
The other revelation of the evening was the Bulgarian soprano Sonya Yoncheva, making her Met debut as Gilda. The voice was limpid and articulate and delivered a finely nuanced reading of the signature aria "Caro nome." Occasionally the higher pitched singing betrayed a rough edged quality, but Ms. Yoncheva had every reason to be proud.
Matthew Polenzani has come a long way since his early comprimario roles at the Met and his voice occasionally rose to the challenge of Verdi's Duke. "Parmi veder le lagrime," for example, radiated a generous warmth of tone. The part's more challenging singing - "La donna e mobile" notably - suggested room for growth.
Stefan Kocan and Oksana Volkova were a diabolically murderous duo in the roles of the assassin Sparafucile and his sister and bait Maddalena. Kocan's superb legato - also on display this week in the role of Prince Gremin in Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin - gave the part a scary gravitas. Combined with Volkova's gravely mezzo the final Act III scene and its notoriously difficult quartet imparted a special resonance.
Paul du Quenoy