Tony Award Winner Michael Mayer to Helm New RIGOLETTO for the Metropolitan Opera
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by BWW News Desk
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.
Diana Damrau has sung at the Met every season since her celebrated 2005 debut as Zerbinetta in Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos. Her Met roles have included Rosina in the new production premiere of Rossini's IL Barbiere di Siviglia and Countess Adèle in the Met premiere of his Le Comte Ory; Aithra in the new production premiere of Strauss's Die Ägyptische Helena; both Pamina and the Queen of the Night in Mozart's Die Zauberflöte and Konstanze in his Die Entführung aus dem Serail;the title roles in Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor and La Fille du Régiment and Adina in his L'Elisir d'Amore; and Gilda, which she sang at the Met in 2009 and 2011 and has also sung with Zurich Opera, Bavarian State Opera, and Dresden Opera. This March at the Met, she will make her role debut as Violetta in La Traviata.
Piotr Beczala made his Met debut as the Duke of Mantua in 2006 and returned to the role with the company in 2009 and 2011. He has also sung the Duke with Zurich Opera and Paris Opera. His most recent Met performances were as the Chevalier des Grieux in last season's new production premiere of Massenet's Manon. He has sung four additional roles at the Met to critical acclaim: Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor,Lenski in Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin, Rodolfo in La Bohème, and Roméo in Gounod's Roméo et Juliette. In March, he will make his Met role debut as the title character in Gounod's Faust.
Marco Armiliato's more than 300 Met performances have included numerous Verdi operas, from the early Attila to the repertory staplesAida, La Traviata, and Il Trovatore. Last season, he led a rare revival of Verdi's Ernani as well as the season-opening company premiere of Donizetti's Anna Bolena. This spring, he will conduct the first Met performances of Zandonai's Francesca da Rimini in more than 25 years.
George Gagnidze made his Met debut as Rigoletto in 2009 and returned the following season to reprise the role, which he has sung at numerous high-profile venues including the Deutsche National Theater in Weimar, Los Angeles Opera, and La Scala. Earlier this season, he made his Met role debut as Amonasro in Verdi's Aida; in previous seasons, he has sung Scarpia in the new production premiere of Puccini's Tosca,Shaklovity in Mussorgsky's Khovanshchina, and the title role in Macbeth. Later this season, he will sing the title role in Nabucco in Palermo.
Vittorio Grigolo has sung the Duke at La Scala and the Royal Opera, Covent Garden, but will be performing the role for the first time at the Met this season. He made his company debut in 2010 as Rodolfo in La Bohème, a role he has sung in Zurich, Bari, Berlin, Orange, Milan, Munich, and London. This summer, he will return to London's Royal Opera as Ruggero in Puccini's La Rondine and sing the tenor part in Verdi's Requiemat the Arena di Verona.
Lisette Oropesa, a graduate of the Met's Lindemann Young Artist Development Program, has sung more than 90 performances of 12 roles with the company, including Miranda in the world premiere of the Baroque pastiche The Enchanted Island; the Rhinemaiden Woglinde in Wagner's Das Rheingold and Götterdämmerung; the Dew Fairy in Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel; Susanna in Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro; Amore in Gluck's Orfeo and Euridice;and Lisette in the 2008 new production premiere of La Rondine.
Christine Jones won a Tony Award for her designs for American Idiot and was nominated for her work on Spring Awakening. Susan Hilferty, a Tony winner for Wicked, has designed costumes for dozens of theater, opera, and dance productions, including the current Broadway revival of Annie. Kevin Adams won Tony Awards for his lighting designs for Spring Awakening, The 39 Steps, and American Idiot. In March, all three designers will return to Broadway for the Amanda Green/Trey Anastasio musical Hands on a Hardbody. Choreographer Steven Hoggett is also noted for his work in theater, where his credits include Black Watch (for which he won an Olivier Award), Peter and the Starcatcher, and the 2012 Tony-winning Best Musical Once.