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Met's 'Rigoletto' now showing at local theaters

Feb. 16, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

A hunchbacked jester, a philandering duke and a father's curse provide the impetus for the action in the opera "Rigoletto" by Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901).

Usually set in 16th century Italy, stage director Michael Mayer has updated the Metropolitan Opera's new production to Las Vegas in 1960. Think of Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack at a casino in Las Vegas. "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas."

"Rigoletto," a melodrama in three acts, is the live in high definition simulcast from the stage of the Metropolitan Opera into select movie theaters at 12:55 p.m. today, Feb. 16. Locally, the production will be shown at Cinemark Theater in the Huntington Mall in Barboursville; Great Escape in Nitro; and Cinemark Theater in Ashland.

"Rigoletto" was premiered in Venice on March 11, 1851, to rave reviews from the audience after some changes requested by the censors. The libretto (script) by Francesco Maria Piave was based on the French playwright Victor Hugo's tragedy Le roi s'amuse (1832). The King of France was changed to the fictional Duke of Mantua.

Tenor Piotr Beczala will sing the role of the womanizing Duke of Mantua. One of the most famous operatic arias is the Duke's cavatina "La donna `e mobile," singing of the fickleness of women. Realizing that this tune would become popular, Verdi supposedly did not give the music to the original tenor until two days before the premiere so that the gondoliers on the canals of Venice would not hear the melody and sing it on the canals before the opera audience had heard the aria.

Serbian baritone Zeljko Lucic will sing the title role of Rigoletto, and soprano Diana Damrau will sing the role of Gilda, Rigoletto's daughter. "Caro nome" is Gilda's famous aria.

Last May when I was teaching voice as an exchange professor in Brazil, I read an amusing article on "Rigoletto" that said "It has everything a good opera should: rampant adultery, a dreadful curse, corrupted innocence and one heck of a grisly ending." The same article gave the 10-second version as "sarcastic adultery-abetting hunchback gets his comeuppance in a sack of dead daughter. Moral: Lock up your daughters."

Verdi wrote beautiful music and developed dramatic characters in this opera. I highly recommend that you attend. You will remember the experience. I remember clearly the first time I saw "Rigoletto" at Indiana University Opera Theater with my teacher baritone Roy Samuelsen singing the title role.

Sung in Italian with English subtitles, "Rigoletto" will also have an encore performance at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 6, at the Cinemark Theater in Barboursville. It is about three-and-a-half hours long.

Dr. Larry Stickler is professor of music at Marshall University.