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Song of the Day: November 20

Steven Blier (photo Liv Hoffman)Renata Scotto and Tito Gobbi in today’s Song of the Day from Steven Blier:

I went to the Met yesterday evening. It was part of a new year’s resolution to stay au courant with the current crop of opera singers, and to see more of the new productions in the theater. I was treated to the Rigoletto production set in Rat Pack-era Las Vegas. You know the drill: pole-dancers, fan-dancers, the Countess Ceprano looks like Marilyn Monroe, Gilda’s corpse gets dumped into the trunk of a blue sports car, Rigoletto gets tricked by the “courtiers” by being led to the wrong elevator. The main visual motif is garish neon lighting. I didn’t mind the updating per se, but the performance was logy and aimless, and the plot points weren’t made very clear (Rigoletto says “We’re alone” while there are 40 choristers still onstage). The dark, brooding color of Verdi’s music seemed to be an afterthought to a brash, in-your-face concept. The two really good performances were, alas, in two of the smaller parts: the Sparafucile (a superb basso named Stefan Kocan), and the Act II guard who has one line (Earle Patriarco, who delivered his bit part with clarion force). The rest of singing ranged from uneven to mediocre to distressing—though I liked many things about Pablo Heras-Casado’s conducting. He deserved a better cast.

The theme of the week is comfort, and Italian opera is a kind of home for me. Last night I thought, “Well, they say you can’t go home again.” But YouTube provided a safe haven this morning with two Rigoletto excerpts from Italian television in the late 1950s. VERY old-fashioned, non-HD, from-the-gut performing by two great artists: Renata Scotto and Tito Gobbi. Something about the way they perform the end of Act II reduced me to tears this morning. I had to reassure Jim I was OK as I stared at my computer, weeping. I don’t want to live in the past—but sometimes I have to if I want to get fed properly.

Act II: “Sí, vendetta” with Scotto and Gobbi: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DswuenTfx_w

And if you want more: part of the Act I duet with Scotto and Gobbi: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ILpXnOYNSs

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