Showing posts from January, 2022

New Rigoletto Production Makes One Nostalgic For Vegas

Ah, remember when the Met audiences was mildly scandalized over Michael Mayer's Rat-Pack/Vegas Rigoletto ? I do. Bartlett Sher's Weimar Republic Rigoletto was supposed to right those wrongs. Instead, the new production makes absolute nonsense of the libretto.  Nice double doors? Photo @ Ken Howard Victor Hugo's play is set in Francis I's court. Francesco Maria Piave's libretto had to move the action to Mantua.  The Vegas  Rigoletto  did one thing right -- it made the Duke of Mantua's and Rigoletto's relationship very vivid. The Duke was the Dean Martin-esque playboy, Rigoletto was the Sammy Davis Jr.-esque sidekick. It made sense, in a way.  Sher's Rigoletto transplants the opera to the Weimar Republic. From the moment the curtain rose, one was overwhelmed by Michael Yeargan's huge rotating set that gave us the opera's main locales -- the Duke's court, Rigoletto's house, and Sparafucile's inn. But you had no clue who the Duke of Mant

Tosca in Shades of Pastel

Elena Stikhina, photo @ Ken Howard Critic Joseph Kerman famously said that Puccini's Tosca was a "shabby little shocker." It's also cast-proof: the blood and guts verismo drama is startlingly effective theater. So many years of opera-going, and never saw a Tosca that wasn't engaging, even if the voices were less than world-class. My luck ran out on January 14, 2022 when I finally saw what I had previously thought impossible -- a boring Tosca . It was so lifeless, so pale, that it felt like the entire evening was in shades of pastel pink and lavender. No primary colors. It wasn't badly sung. On the contrary, the leading lady Elena Stikhina has one of the loveliest voices heard in recent memory. She has a medium-sized lyric voice that remains round and velvety all the way up to high C. There's no shrillness, no pushing -- she just opened her mouth, and lovely sounds came out. She also looks darling -- huge eyes, a petite build. You could imagine her being