Michael Mayer Puts the Wriggle Into Rigoletto at The Met

By Philipp Brieler
24 Jan 2013

Michael Mayer
Michael Mayer
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Tony Award-winning director Michael Mayer, making his Metropolitan Opera debut this month, talks about his innovative idea of setting Verdi's Rigoletto in Rat Pack-era Las Vegas.


The Metropolitan Opera's new production of Rigoletto begins Jan. 28 in Manhattan, with Piotr Beczala as The Duke, Željko Lučić as his tragic sidekick Rigoletto and Diana Damrau as Rigoletto's daughter Gilda. Michele Mariotti conducts.

Tony Award-winning director Michael Mayer (Spring Awakening) partners with some of his favorite Broadway designers — including scenic designer Christine Jones, costume designer Susan Hilferty, lighting designer Kevin Adams (all of them Tony winners) — for the bold and splashy experience, which places the action of Mantua in 1960 Las Vegas. Steven Hoggett (Broadway's American Idiot, Peter and the Starcatcher and a Tony nominee for Once) choreographs.

The current run of Rigoletto continues through Feb. 23, including a Live in HD transmission on Feb. 16. The production returns in April with a different cast.

This chat with Mayer, edited by edited by Philipp Brieler, appears in the February 2013 Playbill of The Metropolitan Opera.


How did the idea for this production come about?
Michael Mayer: Rigoletto has long been one of my favorite operas, and it was on my short list way back when I first talked to Peter Gelb. I started thinking about what I could bring to this masterpiece, which has been seen all over the world for so many years. One of the things I discussed with Peter was to try and make the audience feel closer to the story — without setting the opera today, which dates something automatically. It's about finding the right setting in a context that's in the past but not so far in the past that it feels like a museum piece. That way it can have real, immediate resonance but also a kind of purity and universality. So I tried to imagine what a contemporary version of the decadent world of the Duke's palace would be — where people are partying and fascinated with power and money and beauty — and I thought of Las Vegas as the epitome of an American destiny for the events that happen in Rigoletto.


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