Tag Archives: Vittorio Grigolo

‘Rigoletto’ potpourri: a tale, trivia, and a magical performance

MOT's 'Rigoletto' opened May 14

Editor’s note: All month long, in honor of Verdi’s birthday, we will celebrate all things Verdi on Operatoonity.com. This Golden Operatoonity repost features my favorite Verdi opera “Rigoletto.”

Giuseppe Verdi’s Rigoletto premiered in Venice, Italy in 1851. Based on a story by Victor Hugo, Rigoletto is a darkly tragic, gut-wrenching opera that ends in a senseless death. But at least for one performance at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden circa 1948, Rigoletto turned into a bit of a comedy:

English tenor Walter Midgley was playing the Duke.  During the aria “Questa o quella,”  a lively, upbeat piece, Midgley caught the end of his fake mustache in his mouth and gradually sucked in the entire thing, which eventually lodged itself in his windpipe. If losing his fake mustache wasn’t enough of distraction, at the end of the aria, Midgley managed to blow it out across the stage, into the orchestra pit, and right into the conductor’s face.

According to Bachtrack, the world’s best way to find live classical music, Rigoletto was one of the ten most performing operas in the world  in 2009-10.

Tenor David Lomeli singing the Duke in COC's 'Rigoletto'

Canadian Opera Company is doing Rigoletto this season with a first-rate cast.

In celebration of Rigoletto’s 160th anniversary, here is a link to “Questa o quella,” sans any extra slapstick comedy, from one of my favorite productions last season, Rigoletto a Mantova, as sung by the ever-appealing Italian tenor  Vittorio Grigolo.


Filed under Microtales, Opera and humor, Premieres

Grigolo–the next great-a tenore?

Vittorio Grigolo--the Italian Tenor

Let’s face it. In their 2010 review of Manon at the Royal Opera House, the Guardian got it exactly right when they said Vittorio Grigolo’s “got everything the role [Des Grieux] demands – a voice that flows, terrific looks, an instinctive sense of theatre.”

Who is Vittorio Grigolo? You don’t know? You obviously don’t read USA Today, Opera News, the New York Observer, or The New York Times. He’s is a young tenor from Tuscany who calls himself The Italian Tenor (or his record company does — that’s name of his new album) who’s been getting a great deal of press.

He’s so handsome and charismatic, women swoon over him, especially when he’s singing.  (We can’t help ourselves.) Men might be thinking we’ve been ensnared in his considerable charms, ascribing virtues to him–gallantry, devotion, goodness–he doesn’t deserve. (We don’t care–we love him irrationally.)

On a more serious note, some opera devotees are quick to point out his detour into popera, which forever blights him as a legitimate tenor in their view.

So he detoured into popera. It’s  no cardinal sin. He’s young. Young people do silly things sometimes. You were young once, too, and made bad choices. The only difference is that the international press wasn’t following your every move when you goofed up.

More importantly, he’s redeemed himself (and continues to do so at the great opera houses around the world). Last October he made his Met debut as Rodolfo which The New York Times called “promising” in the headline of the review.  What they didn’t mention was the intangible appeal Grigolo has, how people buzzed about his Met premiere–on social media, everywhere. How you couldn’t get a ticket. How those that did won’t ever forget seeing him perform.

Luciano Pavarotti once described the intangible appeal they both possess to Grigolo this way:

“‘Charisma is something you either have or you don’t.’ He said that you can learn to sing better, but that sense of energy is something you can’t be taught.”

Grigolo as the Duke in 'Rigoletto from Mantua'

He starred as the Duke in the exciting Rigoletto from Mantua shot live on location last year, also starring Plácido Domingo, which I loved. Grigolo has such presence, I can’t even hate him as the Duke. He projects passion and sincerity to a degree that hasn’t registered with me in a long time.

My affection for Grigolo may be completely unfounded, but so was my love for Franco Nero in Camelot–my very first celebrity crush. That’s the thing about watching performers like Grigolo and Nero–every woman thinks she’s the only one he’s looking and sounding that good for, the only woman who truly loves him so intensely.

Here is a wonderful clip from a morning talk show in the USA called, “Good Morning America,’ featuring Grigolo who was in town for his Met debut. I was delighted to find it since I missed it on TV. Ladies, it will not dissuade you from admiring his inexplicable charms.

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According to his website, Grigolo will return to the US in November 6 – 26,  2011, to sing Roméo et Juliette (Gounod) at LA Opera in Los Angeles. That’s a killer role–all those duets. I’d love to see how he handles it.

Vittorio, next time you come to the States, go east young man. Go east.


Filed under Uncategorized

six opera events to celebrate in 2010

James Valenti Wins Richard Tucker Award (April 16)

The Richard Tucker Award has been called “the Heisman Trophy of Opera.” It’s a $30,000 prize recognizing an American singer on the cusp of an international opera career, and on April 16, 2010, James Valenti was named the winner. Why was this year’s award so exciting? James Valenti is an alumnus of the Academy of Vocal Arts, a premier opera training program for young artists located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, my home state. These  programs are so critical to preparing the next generation of opera performers. Besides grooming and showcasing up and coming talent, they also showcase new works, as in the case of Margaret Garwood’s The Scarlet Letter.       

Jake Heggie's Moby Dick/photo by Karen Almond


Moby Dick World Premiere (April 30)

Composer Jake Heggie, librettist Gene Scheer       

Commissioned by the Dallas Opera in partnership with four other companies, Moby Dick premiered at the Winspear Opera House on April 30. Notable for its outstanding staging and performances, it’s also extremely heartening to see opera companies collaborating to bring new opera to the stage.       

#Operaplots 2010 (around May 3-7-entries submitted earlier)

Sam Neuman--Grand Prize #Operaplot Winner


 Miss Mussel orchestrated an enormous mini-contest celebrating not the masterplot but the microplot–only 140 characters allowed to summarize the plot of an opera. Oh, and the hashtag “#operaplot” had to be included! More than 900 entries representing 200+ different operas were read, sorted, alphabetized, and categorized, etc., at Tweetning-fast speed. Winners were announced the week of May 3. What a fabulous and most entertaining of display ingenius brevity!       

Met in the Park 2010

Met in the Park


The Metropolitan Opera performed six concerts in parks in the five boroughs of New York City from July 12-29, 2010. I was sitting in a bar in Soho two weekends ago, when a woman I just met told me how much she enjoyed the program that came to Crotona Park (Bronx) on Thursday, July 15 that featured Monica Yunus, soprano; Matthew Plenk, tenor; Donovan Singletary, bass-baritone; and Jonathan Kelly, pianist.       

Rigoletto a Mantova, September 4 & 5

Rigoletto a Mantova


The live simulcast of ‘Rigoletto’ a Mantova was a brave and beautiful project filmed on location in Mantua, lending the entire enterprise the scope and versimilitude of a major motion picture. It featured an all-star cast including Plácido Domingo, Julia Novikova, Vittorio Grigolo, and Ruggero Raimando.  The production values, the direction, the musical direction, the soloists, the orchestra, the conductor, the setting, the choral numbers, the cinematography, the costumes, the singing, the singing, the singing were all squisito.  With any luck, this production set the stage for more such live simulcasts.  Grazie, Plácido.    

Opera  in the Outfield (September 19) and Aida at the Ballpark (September 25)

Aida in Giants Park, San Francisco


Two major opera houses obtained corporate underwriting to offer free simulcasts of live opera in major ballparks in 2010. “Play Ballo!” was the motto of the Washington National Opera‘s third annual “Opera in the Outfield” event. Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera” was broadcast from the Kennedy Center live in Nationals Park, to 11,000 fans. Aida in the Ballpark in the San Francisco Giants home park for approximately 50,000 fans.       

Opera Company of Philadelphia’s Random Act of Culture (October 30)

Six hundred singers filled Macy’s Department Store in Philadelphia and sang Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus.” What a beautiful celebration of spontaneous performance! It’s as much fun to see the crowd’s reaction to the live performance as it is to hear the singers.       

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I’m certain there were many other wonderful things happening in the world of classical music during 2010. If I’ve not mentioned your favorite event, please mention it in the comments section. And here’s to more inspiring events in 2011.

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Filed under 21st Century Opera, Audience participation, Best of Operatoonity, Classic Opera, Live opera performance, News Roundup

o holy Vittorio

Not in the holiday spirit? I got a head start on my holiday decorating this weekend, which is always more important to me than holiday shopping. Besides, I’m more inclined to be a Cyber Monday shopper anyway. Who can shop if you’re not in the holiday spirit? How can you get in the holiday spirit without having your home decorated?

As I gaze at my decorated tree from the local tree farm and my little angel collection, I am ready for a little holiday music to start my day.

Here’s a YouTube clip from November 27, an absolutely glorious holiday concert in Dresden featuring the equally glorious Vittorio Grigolo singing “Panis Angelicus” (or “Bread of Heaven”). I was first introduced to this song as a child, from the Firestone Presents Your Favorite Christmas Music series as sung by Franco Corelli. My parents had all the albums. I remember sitting on the floor by the stereo speakers, listening over and over again to my favorites and singing along.

If you’re not yet in the holiday mood, use this E-Z pass–a stunning venue, beautiful music, and of course, two lovely  pieces sung by the incomparable Vittorio Grigolo.

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Filed under Classical Music, Holidays, Performers

first 15 minutes of Verdi’s ‘Rigoletto’ a Mantova–squisito!

Rigoletto a Manatova--opening shot

During the past year, doing research for a novel with classic opera as a backdrop, I watched hours and hours of classic opera on film or tape. From the very first note of the live, simulcast ‘Rigoletto’ a Mantova (with its all-star cast including Plácido Domingo, Julia Novikova, Vittorio Grigolo, and Ruggero Raimando), you know you are in for something spectacular.  

Here are the first fifteen minutes of Verdi’s exquisite work (which adapts Victor Hugo’s gut-wrenching tale) via YouTube, and if you don’t adore opera, you will by the time you are finished watching this clip.  

Placido as Rigoletto

You’ll want to write home about the production values, the direction, the musical direction, the soloists, the orchestra, the conductor, the setting, the choral numbers, the cinematography, the costumes, the singing, the singing, the singing.   


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Filed under 21st Century Opera, Live opera performance, Performers