"Live from the Met Saturday Morning" - now possible in HD at local theatres
Los Angeles – “Live at the Met in HD” is the best deal in town for opera lovers. It is a live broadcast from the Metropolitan Opera Stage of a Saturday Matinee right then and there. And there's more. There are interviews conducted with the performers between acts, watching as the stage is prepared for the next act and all the activity backstage that we, as the audience out front, are never privy to. And, there's one last terrific thing; it's on a Saturday morning at 10 a.m., you can wear very comfortable clothes, bring your own coffee or snack, and just settle in as comfortable as you would be at home. All for $25!
Having seen 'The Tempest' and 'Aida' in this manner earlier in the season, I imagined this 'Rigoletto' to be just as traditionally non-traditional as the NY Metropolitan Opera's productions have become. I knew that the setting had been brought to Vegas in the mid-60s with a vaguely "Rat Pack" feeling from that time: Sinatra, Martin, Bishop, Lawford, Rickles and various famous mobsters of the period. It was beyond the beyond accurate with all the glamour, bon vivant lifestyle, excess, token stereotypical women of whore/Madonna. It was all there - and then there was Verdi's music. It worked.
The cast was magnificent; truly an ensemble. We learned during the intermission interviews, led so wonderfully by Renee Fleming, that Zeljko Lucic as Rigoletto and Giana Damrau as Gilda had worked together for several seasons in Frankfurt as part of the Frankfurt Opera House troupe, and were very familiar playing these roles. Lucic as Rigoletto was breathtakingly, compelling and heartbreaking. His Rigoletto was the Lounge comedian of 60s Vegas with the plaid golf sweater and slacks and two toned shoes and just the right amount of bitterness at being the court jester of the "Rat Pack".
Damrau as Gilda has just the right virginal qualities of the pious and devoted daughter, complete with the "Madonnaesque blue" shirtmaker dress of the period. They seemed much more sympathetic characters in this setting of 60s Vegas than the traditional palace of 16th century Mantua.
The other costumes and production values were so true to the images of an early and more glamorous Vegas. Beautifully groomed men in immaculate dinner jackets for the evenings out. One could almost see their manicured nails visible at the crap table as they sensuously shoot their cuffs, with their initials on them, as they threw the dice.
This production features neon, neon and more neon. So reminiscent as an outstanding feature of the Strip in 60s Vegas. The stage was never without the glamour of the period during the even most emotional arias and scenes of this always wonderful opera.
As a very special treat, the subtitles for the audience were the lingo and jargon of the period. The original Italian was being sung, the music could never be touched, but the dialogue matched the period, which added to this totally mesmerizing production.
'Rigoletto' will always be one of the most heartbreaking of operas but the seduction of this production gives it new qualities. Flawless interpretation by director Michael Mayer, voices of classical training making Verdi's familiar music even more familiar but with a new point of view, costumes and settings that were a gift to the eye, combining to evoke emotions not felt before when seeing this traditional opera.
There are two more performances coming to LA Live as HD with a Saturday morning live performance from NY: 'Francesca da Rimini' - March 16; and 'Guilio Cesare' April 27. All these productions present the most imaginative staging in opera with the most glorious and adventurous opera singers in the theatre at the moment.
Even if you know these operas, these new productions will make you care all over again.