Metropolitan Opera 2016-17 Preview: ‘Rigoletto’ & Las Vegas Make Return With Familiar & New Faces

By David Salazar

Verdi’s “Rigoletto” returns to the Met stage on Friday, Jan. 20 in a lengthy run through February and then a few days in April.

Olga Peretyatko and Željko Lučić will be the production’s mainstays, singing every single presentation of the work this season. This will be the Lučić’s fourth run of “Rigoletto” at the Met, byt far his most performed role with the company. After making her debut in “I Puritani” back in 2014, Peretyatko has sung no other role besides Gilda at the Met, a run of 10 straight performances.

Stephen Costello plays the Duke of Mantua in the first four performances of the run and he is slated to take over the role of Roméo in Gounod’s “Roméo et Juliette” after his work in Verdi’s opera. Joseph Calleja takes on the villainous ruler in April.

As the murderer Sparafucile, bass Andrea Mastroni makes his Met debut on Friday before Štefan Kocán takes over the act in April. Oksana Volkova and Nancy Fabiola Herrera alternate the role of Maddalena.

Pier Giorgio Morandi conducts the run.

The Opera

Verdi’s “Rigoletto” is well-known for its catchy tunes, many of which are given to the lecherous Duke. Of these, “La Donna e mobile” is by far the most famous in all of opera, a cruel fate for listeners to endure when on considers that it is the anthem of sexism and misogyny.

But the work is well-crafted dramatically and the main hero, an outsider, is given no formal aria to speak-of. Rigoletto has a brief monologue in which he contemplates his vile ways and his only aria does not follow the ABA format usually associated with such pieces of the time.

Finally Gilda is given Bel canto lines from the get-go, matching up with the Duke’s own vocal style more than it does with her father’s.

Verdi employed unique musical tricks for the time, particularly using a chorus to intone wind. The famed quartet is seen by many as the best in the canon for its ability to express four different emotional realities simultaneously in a succulently crafted piece of music.

Michael Mayer’s production takes audiences to mid 1900’s Las Vegas where the Duke is a gangster and Rigoletto some form of servant.

Notable Recordings

There are a plethora of options to choose from here. For those interested in seeing what the Met production is all about, there is video release starring Diana Damrau, Piotr Beczala and Željko Lučić.

Those interested in Luciano Pavarotti’s famed interpretation cannot go wrong with his CD release alongside Joan Sutherland and Sherill Milnes.

In this writer’s mind, the most potent of all interpretations of the title role is that of Tito Gobbi and he has a fine recording alongside Maria Callas and Giuseppe di Stefano, both in top form.