Sunday, February 5, 2012

A World Without Rigoletto

What gets me going in the morning more than a platter of Rigoletto? No, I'm not talking about a plate of pasta. Rigatoni is the tubular, ribbed noodle that comes in varying lengths and diameters and is sometimes curved. Served with a white or red sauce, or simply with butter, herbs and garlic, it is delicious.   

But much as I love Italian pasta, I love Italian opera even more!  And  I was talking about platters as slang for vinyl records.  I have a collection of records that I like to play when I exercise in the morning, and lately it's been the Rigoletto that gets me going. Just when I might come up with some excuse not to engage in weight-lifting and work-outs, I think, well, the time will go by quickly if I get to enjoy some beautiful music.  The recording that I am playing is with Richard Tucker as the Duke, Gianna D'Angelo as Gilda,  and Renato Capecchi as Rigoletto. 

Teatro Mantua

Rigoletto awaits me, and will awaken you, too, from your slumber.  If you have not had the pleasure of making this acquaintance, written by none other than Joe Green, aka as Giuseppe Verdi (1813 - 1901), you are in for a treat.  Last fall, just by sheer chance while channel surfing, I happened upon the BBC  and RAI production filmed on location in Mantua.   A star casting included Zubin Mehta as director,  Placido Domingo as Rigoletto, Vittorio Grigolo as the Duke, Julia Novikova as Gilda, and Ruggero Raimondi-Magdelene as Sparafucile.  

This opera has been a blockbuster since it was first performed in 1851. It had an international stage within five years, being seen in Venice, Rome, Naples, Vienna, Budapest, Brunn, Milan, Graz, Stuttgart, Prague, St. Petersburg, London, Warsaw, Bologna, Madrid, Athens, Lisbon, Constantinople, Tiflis, New York, Buenos Aires, Havana, and Rio de Janeiro.  This was when entertainment was about art and talent. I think that if I had been alive then, I might have been a Verdi groupie. As the playbill shown here for the Syracuse Opera describes: "This grand tragedy has seduction, an assassin, kidnappers and murder.  But the corpse of Rigoletto's daughter, Gilda is about the only thing that's stiff." Based on a play by Victor Hugo, Le roi s'amuse, it was bound to be tragic and heart-rending, as Hugo always tends to be.

A snippet of "Quanto dolor", one of many hit duets in the opera:

In the BBC production, the duke was played by the not-too-hard-on-the-eyes Vittorio Grigolo.  He is the the quintessentially imperious scoundrel.

All three acts were filmed in Mantua, at the actual times of the day and night. The splendor of the Palazzo Ducale brings the opera to life in the most realistic and sumptuous way possible.  Costuming was equally opulent, as it always is in opera.

I had no fault with Placido Domingo advancing from his years as a tenor and singing the duke's  baritone role of Rigoletto. He is a great stage actor and has admitted that Rigoletto is such a powerfully complex and emotional piece that it still brings him to tears with its beauty. That the camera can zoom in from different angles provides a very intense and personal experience that  is bound to result in frequent reaching for the tissues. 

Act III.  The depressing mood is set with this outside-of-town tower.  It is a tragedy waiting to happen amidst misfortune, miscommunication, and mayhem. 

EVERYONE has to be familiar with this aria sung by the lecherous duke.  It became a big hit when first heard and was the most popular song of the season.

Rigoletto - put it on your bucket list, or it will be be a tragedy indeed that you have not truly lived before you die!  A world without Rigoletto - I can't imagine!