Tony Award-winning director Michael Mayer will make his Met debut with a new production of Verdi's Rigoletto, in a staging that moves the opera's tragic events from a decadent 16th-century Italian court to the glitzy, depraved setting of the Las Vegas strip circa 1960. Polish tenor Piotr Beczala sings the Duke, here an amoral lounge singer whose entourage includes the world-weary comedian Rigoletto, sung by Serbian baritone Željko Lu?i?. German soprano Diana Damrau sings the role of the innocent Gilda, Rigoletto's daughter and the victim of the predatory Duke. Slovakian bass Štefan Kocán sings the assassin-for-hire Sparafucile and Belarussian mezzo-sopranoOksana Volkova makes her Met debut as the seductress Maddalena. Italian conductor Michele Mariotti, who made his Met debut earlier this season, conducts his first company performances of the Verdi masterwork. Mayer's production will also feature the work of debuting artists Christine Jones (set design), Susan Hilferty (costume design), Kevin Adams (lighting design), and Steven Hoggett (choreography). The Saturday, February 16 matinee performance will be transmitted worldwide as part of the Met's Live in HD series, which is now seen in more than 1,900 movie theaters in 64 countries around the world.
Beginning April 13, a second cast will take the principal roles. Vittorio Grigolo, who made an acclaimed Met debut as Rodolfo in La Bohème in 2010, will return for his first company performances as the Duke, opposite rising Met star Lisette Oropesa as Gilda and George Gagnidze reprising his powerful interpretation of the title role. Marco Armiliato will conduct this series of performances, which also feature Nancy Fabiola Herrera as Maddalena and Enrico Giuseppe Iori in his Met debut as Sparafucile.
Michael Mayer has directed a diverse range of acclaimed performances on Broadway, on film, and on television. He is perhaps best known to theater audiences for directing two recent Tony Award-winning musicals, Spring Awakening and American Idiot. His additional Broadway credits include the musicals Triumph of Love, You're a Good Man Charlie Brown, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Everyday Rapture, and On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, and the plays 'Night Mother, After the Fall, An Almost Holy Picture, Uncle Vanya, The Lion in Winter, Side Man, and A View From the Bridge. He directed the films Flicka and A Home at the End of the World and several episodes of the Broadway-themed television series "Smash," for which he serves as consulting producer.
Mayer looked to 1960s Las Vegas as a setting that "could hold the universal story of this great masterpiece...a very licentious world where there is an obsession with money and power and sex-where pranks and a kind of trickster energy could go bad. There is this fascination we have with Vegas as this place to escape the responsibilities of our daily lives. It is designed for pleasure; you're not obliged to take any accountability for your actions when you're there. But there are often consequences to actions that get out of hand. And I think that this opera really speaks to the danger and the potential tragedy inside that kind of irresponsibility."
Michele Mariotti, the Principal Conductor of Teatro Comunale in Bologna, made his Met debut earlier this season leading Bizet'sCarmen. The Pesaro-born conductor has led high-profile performances of a varied repertory in Bologna, including Carmen, Bellini's I Puritani,Mozart's Idomeneo and Le Nozze di Figaro, Rossini's La Gazza Ladra and La Cenerentola, and Verdi's La Traviata and Simon Boccanegra. Later this season, he will conduct additional Met performances of Carmen and a new production of Rossini's La Donna del Lago at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden.
Željko Lu?i? has sung Rigoletto at many of the world's leading opera houses, including the Met (in 2009 and 2011), La Scala, Paris Opera, Cologne Opera, and the Teatro Real in Madrid. He made his Met debut in 2006 as Barnaba in Ponchielli's La Gioconda. His other starring roles with the company include the title role in the 2007 new production premiere of Verdi's Macbeth, Giorgio Germont in La Traviata, di Luna in Verdi's Il Trovatore, Michele in Puccini's Il Tabarro, Enrico in Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor, and the title role in Verdi's Nabucco. Later this season, Lu?i? will sing the title roles in Simon Boccanegra and Macbeth at the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, and Renato in a new production of Verdi's Un Ballo in Maschera at La Scala.