Jonathan Miller’s production, performed by the English National Opera, boldly translates the action of Guiseppe Verdi’s opera from sixteenth-century Italian vendettas into 1950s power politics of Mafia-controlled Manhattan.
RIGOLETTO was recorded at the London Coliseum before a live audience with a cast of exceptional brilliance including John Rawnsley as the hunchbacked joker of the title, Marie McLaughlin as his daughter Gilda whose honor he struggles to protect, and Arthur Davies as the "Duke", the godfather of the Mafia, singing the best-known aria, "La Donna e Mobile" to the sound of a juke-box. This is no traditional rendering of the opera. Instead, the action is moved boldly forward from Manuta in the sixteenth century to Little Italy, New York, in the early Fifties. In this environment, the power of a father’s curse is as threatening as it was four hundred years before; superstition has a strong hold on the minds of the Mafiosi.
The opera is sung in a new English translation which adds to the intensity of the drama. The best recommendation has come from the many opera-goers who were expecting to be outraged by this new production, but found themselves seeing a familiar work with fresh eyes and finding new meaning and excitement as a result.