Bad Things Happen When You Hire an Assassin in a Dive Bar
Whether it be the recent Metropolitan Opera production of Rigoletto, which moves the action to Las Vegas in the 1960’s, or that particular turn of phrase above that we’ve used to help publicize our production of Rigoletto, I’ve had many people ask what we’re going to “do” to the opera.
At the end of last season, we chose to update our Don Pasquale to Hollywood in the 1950’s, and this spring our new production of The Magic Flute will absolutely have a more modern aesthetic. However, when our artistic and production teams evaluate which shows to include in an artistic season and how we’d like to present those performances, we focus carefully on three questions:
- What is the story?
- How can we best tell the composer and librettist’s original story for our audience?
- How does the story fit into the season of performances as a whole?
The story of Rigoletto is based on a novel by Victor Hugo called Le roi s’amuse, which was published just one year after The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, and 30 years before another of his familiar titles, Les Misérables. Hugo was a prolific writer—sometimes publishing three titles a year—and yet Le roi s’amuse was his only novel published in 1832, perhaps owing in part to the long battle Hugo fought with French censors. Verdi and his frequent collaborator, Francesco Piave, were aware that the subject matter was scurrilous and could potentially be blacklisted before they could get the piece to the stage.
Even today, you don’t need to look any further than your favorite online tabloid to find headlines that mirror the political and sexual scandals found in Rigoletto. And yet, the story is just as powerful in its original setting – still pertinent and still potent. Rather than “do” something to Rigoletto, we decided to update our approach with our public messaging about the opera, electing to create a modern moral that highlights the moment when the title character’s emotions push him over the edge in his desire for revenge – hiring the assassin Sparafucile.
Regardless of time or place or cast of characters, we’re telling dynamic stories worth singing this season, providing dramatic diversity and sensational musical experiences each time you join us. Next, from the warmer climates of Mexico, Arizona, and Mantua, we venture to Russia this January with Eugene Onegin. We’re grateful to have you join us to continue this incredible journey through five production and six languages this season!