I’ve been so excited about the live TV film transmission from Mantua of Giuseppe Verdi‘s Rigoletto, even though most of us in the States haven’t yet viewed the complete production. I watched one of the trailers prior to the live transmission. It was fantastic, like a microcosm of everything this production had to offer–vibrancy, relevancy, and such fresh potential–in the way that it filmed opera not as a static stage production but as if it were cinema. Shooting a stage production in the conventional way would have been child’s play compared to the ambitious treatment of Rigoletto a Manatova. So, why are people who claim to like opera picking at this production like it’s a Thanksgiving turkey carcass? This was a watershed production for opera appreciation in the 21st century. It is living, breathing musical drama, dramma per musica, that has the potential to reach new audiences. Why aren’t people who say they love opera supporting this?
Upset in Upsala
I understand and share your concern. After all, some of the most accomplished and influential talents in the world of opera are associated with this production such as Plácido Domingo, internationally acclaimed performer and WNO principal; Andrea Alderman, producer; Marco Bellocchio, director; Zubin Mehta, conductor; and dozens more talented and accomplished artisans. As the Classical Iconoclast has said in a recent essay on the production, “[Rigoletto a Montova] is significant because it shows the possibilities of film in expanding the potential of opera to communicate.”
I observed some of the nitpicking you refer to, reading comments posted on various opera blogs: “Zubin Mehta thinks he’s conducting Mahler;” “Grigolo screamed his part,” and so on and so forth, when in fact the production was impressive and nothing short of inspiring, on the whole. And the whole is supposed to be greater than a sum of parts where drama is concerned. And in this case, the parts served the whole–admirably–despite the myriad challenges of filming live while attempting to convey verisimilitude more so than theatricality. Instead of feeling like I was watching from a box seat, I felt as though I was in the room with the Duke or standing beside Rigoletto in the thunderstorm.
Unfortunately, so many conventional opera companies are hurting–my opera house in Hankey included. By tearing down brave new ventures like “Rigoletto” a Mantova, many self-professed opera lovers/cognoscenti insinuate that they would rather see opera as we know it die on the vine than support live opera that doesn’t meet their high, unreasonable performance expectations in every piddling way.
What the creative team did, filming Rigoletto on site in Mantua, live, was an incredibly daring and artistically brave and challenging endeavor. In every way that is significant, they succeeded. Promise me, Upset in Upsala, not to bend to the nattering nabobs of negativism in the operasphere but continue to support those who take risks in order to make opera a more accessible and a more relevant art form. If you bend to the naysayers, in less than 20 years, we are all doomed to viewing nothing but long-ago filmed productions, the historic record of a once-beloved live art form.
Optimistically yours for opera’s future audience,
Dr. Richard Rohrer