Mario Martone's new production of Rigoletto at La Scala divided the public on the opening night. The 62-year-old Neapolitan film director has also directed many theatre productions and over the last 30 years, a handful of operas. His latest opera concept elicited 11 minutes of applause for the singers but a chorus of boos for the production team.
In the programme notes, Martone says, “I think it is fundamental to return to the violence that Verdi had in mind.” His present-day production saw a riot after Rigoletto (the Duke's ‘pusher' bringing pleasure to the palace) discovers Gilda's dead body. As an ambulance crew arrives and Rigoletto embraces his daughter there is a glimpse of the ensuing scene of a bloodbath as rioters armed with guns, knives and baseball bats, break into the Duke's palace and kill everybody, including the Duke. The curtain closes on this splatter scene, with blood on the walls, paintings, and the white, stylish sofas. Martone says, “A court of the very rich surrounded by people at their service who are subjected to abuse by them, also belongs to our times.”
The production underlines the contrast between the world of the privileged and that of the excluded with revolving scenery that reflects the two worlds: the Duke's palace with champagne and cocaine (and a bondage room), and then there's the periphery with its drug addicts and homeless, and where the waiters and the ‘escorts' of the parties sleep. Gilda and Rigoletto also live here.
Nadine Sierra was Gilda, Amartuvshin Enkhbat, Rigoletto, and Piero Pretti was the Duke of Mantua.
During the curtain calls there was applause for the cast (“Not bombastic but still applause,” said the Corriere della Sera newspaper), though some were less enthusiastic about the conductor, Michele Gamba, but with Mario Martone and his team of nine collaborators, a chorus of boos from the galleries began, counteracted by increasing applause from the stalls.
This very Milanese phenomenon has rarely been heard in recent years – “How wonderful,” said one punter, “Off with the masks and back with the boos… feels like old times.”
With a new top price of 300 Euros, at least it was an unforgettable evening.
Rigoletto, La Scala – Production photos
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.