I saw this production last fall with my father. He has been going to the opera regularly since he was a teenager. Let's just say that I haven't. It has much less to do with opera being irrelevant to people of my generation. (I enjoy reading books that are more "dated" than opera; the Iliad, the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, the Secret History of the Court of Justinian). I just don't care all that much for singing and dancing; I dislike Broadway musicals as well. Still, while I hope Mr. Gelb's goal was not to pander to folks like me, the fact remains that I did take the time to go view a relatively important achievement of Western Civilization. It's close to a metaphysical certainty that I would not have had I not seen the subway print ads that suggested that it might be a neat thing to experience.
Is this all that bad?
I very much appreciated the review especially since I am not a fan of Regietheatre. A couple of years ago in Europe I sat through a Medea in Corinto and a Julius Ceasar complete with machine guns and wanton killing--ugh! (The only ones not killed on stage were Medea's children.)
But there are a small number of successful updatings. The Dresden Ariadne on DVD with Sophie Koch is brilliant even though set in the 2000s--but the story is timeless, there are as many super rich boors today as there were in the 1790a and the performances of almost every actor were superb. Also, somewhat related, a very sucessful filming of the lay "Twelfth Night" was quite successfully updated to the early 1800s in Trevor Nunn's adaptation
But, all in all, I am willing to forego the occasional successful updatings to avoid almost always unsuccessful regietheatre.
The fact that the director of an opera would state "I’m not totally sure where Mantua is in Italy, it’s not one of those beautiful places I’ve visited", exposes himself as a charlatan ignoramus.
The city of Virgil is recognised in Italy as one of it's most beautiful and livable. Given the director's ignorance it is unsurprising that Las Vegas was chosedn.
In '87, I spent July in the gentile and cultured, Imperial city of Vienna. The greatest disappointment was the production of "Le Nozze di Figaro" at the Kammeroper in Schönbrunn Palace. It was disappointing enough to see the cast in a contemporary style in a location which exuded the very period of the opera. By far, the worse was the casting of Cherubino who kept virtually assaulting the Countess. It was so shocking and disturbing that the opera itself lost its force. In the movie version of Carmen with Plácido Domingo and Julia Migenes. Migenes played the role with such a rawness as to shock the audience (Washington, D.C) as to how far she would go with her many sexually charged come-on. A Spaniard, who saw the movie, commented that Carmen did not show the dignity of a gypsy, but the callousness of a street walker. I don't know about that, but she often took our minds off the music and the story line. The directors may be indeed very bright, but they lack emotional intelligence. They live between their ears.
(1) I saw Rigoletto last night (second cast) having seen it when it first opened a few months back (the first cast). Did you actually see either ? Rigoletto has a hunchback. Eyes. Use them before the mouth.
(2) I can't pretend to follow the pseudo-analysis you presented but I can tell you having seen all the productions this year so far that Rigoletto is among the most popular. Perhaps second only to La Traviata.
Yaba daba doo.
The womanizing Duke should have been based on Dean Martin, not Frank Sinatra. Any Rat Pack 101er knows that. The highbrows should stick to their knitting and leave mass culture to the masses.
Brilliantly accurate analysis of Rigoletto.
And by the way, The Met has the Ring Cycle going off in order on Saturdays.
Any thought of packaging the four performances for their HD theater presentation system ???
Of course not.
As opera has gone, so has the Republican Party. Directed by industry lobbyists and the very few megadonors.
Attracting old white people and losing it's commitments to social justice.
Brava for the article. It's a nice change of pace from cop stories and I am impressed with your range of intellectual competence!
At the risk of sounding like a philistine, I'd agree with the assessment of director's theater. 100 years from now no one will remember the names of any of these directors but people will still be watching the operas because the works are classics.
Fascinating article. I don't agree with everything you say but nevertheless I love reading such intelligent and detailed thoughts about these marvelous Met creations. Thank you!
Heather Mac Donald is a true renaissance woman and a genuine treasure, and her comprehensive analysis of such a broad array of topics is a treat.
Like Ms. MacDonald, I have often been frustrated at directors who seem to think I'm too stupid or unimaginative to relate to any story set much before my birth-- but I've never expressed the feeling quite so eloquently. Brava!
Thank you Ms. Mac Donald for an interesting, intelligent and perceptive read. Perhaps frustrated New York City operatti will head south to Philadelphia for the remainder of its season - where for at least this one season - we seem to have eschewed "director's theater."
The best thing about such updatings is that those of us who know how weak and limp the whole thing is can immediately identify the puffed up production as s hit.