Salute Signore e Signori,
Many modern stage directors take a direction in producing opera performances that I want to take issue with: namely the way they significantly change a composer’s (and librettist’s) settings and even the plots of standard operas.
I recently saw a performance of Verdi’s Rigoletto in which the action was transferred from 16th century Mantua, Italy, to 20th century La Vegas, Nevada. As you can imagine there were MANY deviations from the libretto, some of which might have been acceptable symbolism to people familiar with the opera, but didn’t really make sense in a modern setting and turned this intense drama into a farce.
For example, Rigoletto’s obsession with keeping his daughter, Gilda, in near total seclusion, would almost be considered child abuse in today’s Las Vegas.
Similarly, having Sparafucile, a professional assassin hired by Rigoletto to kill his daughter’s rapist, the Duke of Mantua, instead kill the next person to enter the room, who turns out to be Gilda in disguise, and then stuff her body into the trunk of a Cadillac; in a modern context comes off as more a comedy-of-errors than tragedy.
But I think the real injustice of this modern setting results from the fact that, in today’s world, very few people would take a curse placed upon them seriously. In this opera, however, the curse is really the major theme of the opera. Verdi had originally planned to name the opera, La Maledizione or The Curse. In the last words sung in the opera, Rigoletto blames the entire tragedy on “la maledizione”. Again, in today’s Las Vegas, the concept of a curse would most likely be taken as a joke and the opera would thus be considered a farce. What a terrible thing to do to one of Verdi’s greatest operas.
If any of you good readers have similar or opposing thoughts about this practice of modern stage directors, I encourage you to respond to this blog page at www.annapolisopera.org.
Annapolis Opera Trustee
Rigoletto in 16th century Italy
Rigoletto transformed to 20th century Las Vegas