Monday, December 12, 2005

Rigoletto roundup

Before the next spate of commentary rolls in, just a few more thoughts after 48 hours of digestion:

1. I'll second Jonathan and JSU's comments about the decided lack of ping in Rolando V's upper reaches. It is a clear, extremely enjoyable sound, but it don't make with the shivers; well thrown, but there's no spit on that ball.

2. While I maintain that Carlo Guelfi turned in a full blooded Rigoletto character-wise, listening to Leo Nucci do the thing Sunday proved how much Guelfi leaves to be desired. With the right voice really SINGING Rigoletto to the hilt, there are times when you even forget the Gilda/Duke pyrotechnics and just wallow in what is surely one of the most effective ads ever for the baritone voice.

3. So, I know it's just Rigoletto and all, but what an ever fascinating drama that thing is: a world in which love has been stripped of its power to such a degree that love itself becomes virtually meaningless. It is still ultimately a play about punishment and fate, but Verdi and Piave come to the judgment only after showing what we so often think of as love to be little more than a selfish conceit. We are prone to think, as Rigoletto, the Duke, and Gilda do, that love for another redeems, that the act of loving is enough to change us, and change the nature of things. But that seduction unravels in time, to where it utterly falls apart in Maddalena's dreadful suggestion: her 'compassion' for the Duke is synonymous with utter disregard for another life. That last mile post before the abyss acknowledged, Rigoletto must confront the fact that his love for his daughter, whom he can never understand, has meant nothing, and the only thing real is the cruelty he has done in the world.

4. On a related note, isn't it funny that La Donna e Mobile, maybe the cruelest number in the show, has become its jaunty calling card? I mean, after he's destroyed Gilda and unwittingly set the whole terrible endgame in motion, Verdi has him come on and sing "Bitches are crazy." And that's what everyone has gone home humming for a century and a half. Now that's a man who knows how to manipulate an audience.


Chalkenteros said...

ok so even tho i have been planning on seeing rigoletto for weeks and am frothing at the mouth with excitement (can you ramp up the hype any more?), I also spontaneously visited the met last night for my first American Tragedy ... a visit based primarily on the enthusiasm of you two!

For the first twenty minutes or so I was hating this opera. The music wasn't grabbing me. I thought the set design looked cheap and tacky. Those photos looked like they belonged in an airport terminal. Ooh look the car spins.

But somehow it all started to wash over me.

And then Susan Graham sang "New York has changed me." That was when I was transported. That woman's voice cuts like a beacon light through fog. She can command an auditorium. Clearly that aria was written for every gay man in the audience. When will we hear the Donna Summer dance remix?

HIghlights for me were the trio which opened act 2, the church scene (beautiful choral writing), Nathan Gunn's aria "It will not take too long," when he plots Roberta's death, and of course that moment in the jail cell when Zajick pulls that high note right out of heaven.

I thought the drowning was lame, and the melodrama of the courtroom scene didn't seem to fit with the rest of the piece. And I still don't like the set.

But much of that music was gorgeous, and it was exciting to experience a new work.

Now, I have to start getting ready for Rigoletto tonight.

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