The Duke enjoys Vegas: Rigoletto

The Metropolitan Opera. Rigoletto. Giuseppe Verdi music and written by Francisco Maria Piave. Christine Jones, Scene director. Susan Hilferty, figurines. Kevin Adams, lightings. Steven Hoggett, choreography. George Gagnidze, Rigoletto. Olga Peretyat-ko, Gilda. Stephen Costello, El Duque. Jeff Mattsey, Marullo. Richard Troxell, Borsa. Katherine Whyte, Ceprano Duke. David Crawford, Ceprano Duke. Stefan Szkafarowsky, Monterone. Stefan Kocán, Sparafucile. Maria Zifchak, Giovanna. Catherine MiEun Choi-Steckmeyer, paje. Earle Patriarco, Guardia. Katarina Leoson, Maddalena. Pablo Heras-Casado, musical director. Donald Palumbo, Chorus director. Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Chorus and Ballet.

This is a complex story of love, seduction and of rebellion against the aristocracy.  The wealthy prevail in this version of the classic opera as a consequence of the misfortunes of others, and the interaction of human nature entwined with economic interests, together with the rage, lust, tricks, murders and other evils.


Based on the proletarian novel  “Le Roi s’amuse” or “The King’s Enjoyment” by Victor Hugo, Verdi’s characters portray the nature of human passions, giving them a psychological and emotional dimension in a Shakespearean dramatic style. As to the musical structure, Verdi said: “My intention in Rigoletto is to compose a series of duets, without arias or finales, because this is the way I see it…”

And so, at the end of the opera, we have a bitter taste in the mouth having experienced the restlessness that Verdi sought.

This production is set in Las Vegas in 1960 – which seems immensely appropriate for the Rat Pack story line. The curtain opens on some immobile figures in the lascivious Bar Jackpot, full of neon lights. When the band begins, so does movement on the stage. With a cabaret ambience, green, blue and red lights illuminate everything. The walls sometimes move. A golden statue of a naked woman and sofas with men sleeping after a night of orgiastic excess provide visual elements with evident connotations.

Rigoletto is obsessed by the curse of Monterone. He justifies his perverse behavior with the phrase “I am the man who outwits, but he kills”, meaning the figure of the duke. But the curse worries him and he asks himself about his destiny.

Then Rigoletto’s young daughter, Gilda, meets the duke, and she is abducted and seduced. Ri-goletto pronounces the phrase “He is the crime and I am the punishment” and orders a prostitute, Maddalena and her brother, Sparafucile, a killer for hire, to assassinate the duke. But Gilda forgives the Duke, her newfound love, and rebels against her father as she attempts to transcend her adolescence. To save the duke, the libidinous Maddalena allies with the pure love of Gilda, who gives her life to save the Duke. When Rigoletto says, “She is the innocent victim of my revenge,” we all flinch.

Olga Peretyatko as Gilda is a great actress, as she knocks about the stage in highly communicative way, and she gives a very musical performance. George Gagnidze as Rigoletto, is terrific on stage and in his musical performance.  In the role of the Duke, Stephen Costello is a young tenor with a really beautiful voice, excellent musical line in his singing, and he shows a good stage performance, too, but we miss the last final high note in his aria “La donna e mobile”. Bravo to Stefan Kocán as Sparafucile, with a voice of first category in timbre and volume. Bravísima the performance of Katarina Leoson as Maddalena. Also notable was the excellent work of our young Spanish orchestral conductor, Pablo Heras-Casado, who, with the rest of the cast, was warmly acclaimed at the end of the opera by the Metropolitan audience.

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