Jan 23, 2013

Mantua Man

Željko Lučić in Rigoletto
Years ago, when I first arrived in New York, I was up for an editorial position at the fine Met-produced magazine Opera News. I was in the running but it wasn't a perfect fit, as my taste in opera, such as it is, runs more in the City Opera direction. But now that the Met is hiring more talent from the theater, it's perhaps inevitable that our paths should cross again (though I must credit my colleague David Barbour for the link-up). The occasion: Michael Mayer's Met debut next month with a new, Vegas-styled Rigoletto. The last time I spoke to Mayer, for a Time Out piece about American Idiot, almost the last thing he said to me was that the Green Day musical was, in a sense, his "first opera." But this Rigoletto is for real:
He found the latter production, a through-sung extrapolation of the band Green Day's 2004 punk-pop concept album of the same name, to be salient preparation for directing at the Met — to a point.
"The songs needed to be at a particular tempo, so I was bound to those decisions, and while I could argue for different tempos at different times, a song wouldn't change tempo in the middle," Mayer says of Idiot. "That's definitely going to be the relationship that I have with Rigoletto. The plot is going to be ticking, and at a certain point, something will happen musically, and I'm going to have to fulfill that with the staging."
In both cases, he sees one advantage through-sung material has over traditional book musicals. "One liberating thing about doing American Idiot is that the characters weren't bursting into song — that artifice didn't exist," says Mayer. "It was a wall of sound. The scenes were all the songs. So there isn't that moment of artifice. It's the one 'buy' you have at the beginning — these people communicate with singing. As artificial as it might be to our ear initially, it's consistent throughout the evening."
RTWT here.

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