I don’t know how many times I have seen Rigoletto. The music was familiar and in the case of the HD Live performance yesterday, about as technically perfect as I could wish for. If I had been home listening to CBC’s Saturday Afternoon at the Opera, I wouldn’t have known this production was much different than others. But as I heard yesterday, the director tried to think of a setting that would bring a 400 year old opera into the American psyche, and he did just that by setting it in Los Vegas. From the minute the curtain went up I was busy putting the visuals together with the sound – the high rise elevator of a hotel, the casino, that fancy Cadillac from the ‘60’s, and the pole dancing – even the Duke took a whirl on that.
I laughed out loud when I saw the Sammy Davis Jr soft shoe routine, the glass of alcohol always in Dean Martin’s hand, and the Peter Lawford swagger. Even the Don Rickle’s costume was too visual not to be missed — that argyle sweater. I didn’t get tired of the Tuxedo costuming, the feather dance fans in the opening aria, the storm scene producing flashes of lightening with neon lights. And I so wished Wyona had been there when one of the costumers talked to us and was wearing an appliquéd and beaded jacket that could have come from her closet. I wondered if I would be stodgy – resent the updated look of the time and place of the opera. I know you saw the opera, Rebecca and Bonnie – how did you like the updated look?
I was speaking with Nora Robins, a library colleague, whom I met in the halls during the intermission when I usually take a brisk walk so that I will be comfortable in the second and third acts. We were reminiscing about the Gilda costume – that wide peter-pan collar, the fine pleats that flowed out from the 3 inch belt and the row of pearl buttons that opened the bodice. Blue, the perfect colour for innocence. “I know that dress. I am sure I wore it in the ’60,” I said. “I couldn’t keep my eyes off of the now dated leopard cinch belt and matching high heels.” Now that I think back – Gilda even had on a head scarf tied under the chin, a fashion statement that we wore all of the time if we needed to keep our hair out of the wind.
“And that Cadillac – three feet longer than other cars -- with a backseat that was almost a couch,” Nora reminded me. The singers said they watched so many movies from the ‘60’s, trying to get the feel for the times.
Summing up the opera. The music was so exquisite that keeping my eyes closed and just listening would have been enough. Watching the theme transported four centuries forward? That was icing on the cake – almost made me forget I was at an opera.