Cher Public

Young man with a horn

“Ring a ding ding! There’s a new Duke in town, and he’s jolting the Met’s Rigoletto with enough electricity to light up the Las Vegas Strip. It’s Vittorio Grigolo, who flaunted a big, trumpeting tenor and a megawatt personality when he made his company debut in the role Saturday night.” [New York Post]

  • bassoprofundo

    Just something random I’m wondering about. I don’t write reviews so I obviously have no idea what the thinking behind this is, but I’m wondering about this particular phrase in JJ’s review concerning the Duke’s dinner jacket:

    “… Grigolo looked Rat Pack-born, rocking a white dinner jacket…”

    I noticed that JJ mentioned the same thing in the review for the original cast:

    “…Beczala shone as the ring-a-ding-ding Duke, his honeyed lyric tenor as immaculate as his crisp white dinner jacket.”

    I guess I don’t see what the point is in mentioning in the review for the second cast that Grigolo was wearing the white dinner jacket. That jacket is not a specific singer costume choice; the Duke’s character wears a white dinner jacket in the review. It makes sense to mention it on the opening night review, of course, but isn’t it pretty much assumed already that whoever sings the Duke from here on out in this production will be wearing a white dinner jacket?

    Sort of like the red dress in the Decker Traviata. If, for example, Netrebko creates Violetta in the production, it makes sense to say “Netrebko shone in an elegant red dress…”

    but does it not become superfluous then to say for every soprano after:

    “Dessay, in an elegant red dress…”

    “Poplavskaya, in an elegant red dress…”

    “Damrau, in an elegant red dress…”

    I suppose the point is: it seems to me that it’s totally irrelevant information because this information was already introduced in the opening production review, so it’s essentially superfluous information that the Duke wears a white dinner jacket, Gilda a blue dress, etc.

    I don’t know, just seemed a bit odd to me to mention it, as if Grigolo were on the red carpet at the Oscars and chose to wear a white dinner jacket. That’s the character’s jacket, and has nothing to do with Grigolo at all.

    • sterlingkay

      Wow…you really have too much time on your hands….

    • Pelleas

      Drunk-posting is the scourge of the Internet.

    • redbear

      My first Bayreuth experience: I’m a young soldier in Germany who got a ticket and didn’t know what to wear. Amy Vanderbilt, whose book is in the post library, tells me that between June and September, a white dinner jacket is obligatory. I have one made (the dollar was very strong back then).
      Apparently Ms Vanderbilt was never translated into German. Nobody was in white but the waiters. “Mineral wasser, bitte!” was all I heard. At the second intermission I saw an older man with a white dinner jacket and a haircut similar to mine. Closer, I recognized him as the Deputy Chief of Staff, US Army, Europe. We nodded instead of saluting, recognizing each other as a Vanderbilt victim.

    • operaassport

      Basso: are you drunk or something? I mean, talk about anal nit-picking about nothing.

      • bassoprofundo

        You know, I see how it can come off as just being nit-picky, but the dinner jacket example was just meant to serve as a microcosm for something that actually could grow like weeds and take over an entire review, thus rendering it absolutely meaningless. Here’s a hypothetical example:

        “Damrau’s glorious voice soared through the house as she flirted in an elegant red dress, carried about by the men’s chorus, and eventually singing “Addio del passato” in front of an oversized clock.”

        You see, the only new information in that paragraph would be about Damrau’s voice soaring, because the rest of it has to do with the costuming and blocking that VIOLETTA-x would do, regardless of which soprano in particular is singing, and as there would already be a review for that, it means that only a couple of words in the paragraph are actually meaningful. The point is: you could easily see how a review with only a handful of sentences bearing relevant, new information could then be turned into a full length review by merely adding in fluff that was already mentioned in the review when the production first opened.

        I don’t think that that’s what JJ did in this article since the vast majority of it has to do with the singing by the new cast, but the bit about the dinner jacket seemed odd.

        • Golly -- you gave those straw men what for all right.

          • bassoprofundo

            m.croche, you seem to take umbrage at every single one of my posts. I’m sorry if I offended you at some point, it wasn’t my intention. Hopefully you’ll accept my apology.

          • That’s factually wrong, Basso. And I’m not the only here to suggest that you’re barking (very loudly, at great length) up the wrong tree on this particular thread. “Straw men” arguments are ones based on made-up evidence -- and this particular post was nothing but.

            I’d suggest you re-read Will’s comment below. The operative word in that sentence is “rockin”. Think about it.

        • Hippolyte

          The point that you’ve missed in your continued navel-gazing is that the review is appearing in a general-interest newspaper of a wide circulation. No writer in that position would assume any prior knowledge of the Mayer production whatsoever--certainly not for a review of a few hundred words. It was not written solely for an OCD opera-lover who has probably read 1000s of words about the production, seen photos of it, listened to broadcasts and maybe even seen the HD. This review, as well as any other in the Post or the NY Times, etc. is for anyone from that opera crazy described above to a general reader who was just curious to read about what’s playing at the MET. I suspect you’re the only one who actually pulled up the review of the opening of the production and compared, most readers familiar with the production and its costuming probably just nodded with familiarity--I know I did.

        • Pelleas

          “the dinner jacket example was just meant to serve as a microcosm”

          Oh, dear.

        • operaassport

          Best just not to feed drunk Internet trolls. This dinner jacket thing is just an obvious attempt to get attention by someone who, sadly, has no exterior life.

  • La Valkyrietta

    A manou post of a while ago where the neon signs in this Rigoletto production were praised, tipped the balance and made me get a ticket for later on in the month. I was hesitant. I am old fashioned and used to, for example, Giulio Cesares where the singing is done in a proper hall by, say, Joan Sutherland, and dancing is done by some of the Village People at the Anvil, but today anything goes. Verdi and Vegas I thought of dear and distant, but the current Met Giulio and manou made me just decide to go and experience them together. Now there is also Grigolo to look forward to. Thanks for the review

  • Will

    As to the white dinner jacket (or red dress references), it might be a recognition that a particular singer is able to wear the established costume and/or use it on stage in a successful way. Were Pavarotti still alive, for example, he would probably not have “rocked” the white dinner jacket given his size and lack of elegant movement, despite having in his prime a great Duke voice. The reviewer might then have speculated that the MET should have put him in something else that didn’t point up his bulk so blatantly.

    The same is true for the red dress in the Decker Traviata — there are some sopranos for whom it would not work at all, something that was discussed here when the production premiered. These are legitimate considerations, because changing a costume in a production might indicate a slightly different character. Singers and actors frequently comment that the finally “got” their characters fully the first time costumes were used during rehearsal.

    • thirdlady

      Seems as though the “white dinner jacket,” which got name-checked several times in tonight’s “Rigoletto” broadcast, is of the same genre as that stupid top hat from “Elisir” (which I believe at some point was for sale in the Met gift shop?…and certainly figured prominently in the photo accompanying that interminable Times Peter Gelb puff piece). At this point, perhaps these articles of clothing have their own agents? Certainly, it seems like a pathetic attempt at visual branding by the Met.

      • Camille

        Thank you for saying l’indicibile, thirdlady!

        • thirdlady

          oh, dear. now i feel as though i will be blackballed!

          • Camille

            Don’t worry, thirdlady. Camille is here to protect you.

            For your bravery, I will pelt the blackballers with bouquets of rotting camellias and throw after them those dumb doorjam red shoes sold in the Opera Shop.

          • thirdlady

            Thanks, Camille! With you on my side, I am invincible! Perhaps we can deploy the top hats like what’s-his-name’s bowler from the Bond movies…

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    Virgil Thomson “The Art of Judging Music”

  • Tim

    Back to the performance (as opposed to white jacket) of Grigolo I get the impression from JJ’s review that the visuals were more impressive than the aural aspects (e.g. questionable “musical sense”, failure to follow the conductor, becoming unglued in the quartet). I’m from the school that values singing over production values but understand and respect those who take another view. I’m wondering for example how VG handled the recit and aria “Ella mi fu rapita” which, to me is a genuine test of a tenor’s musical chops. Loud top notes without bel canto style in a Duke of Mantua is like going to a lakers game just to see a very large person do a slam-dunk; exciting in itself but not exactly a total experience. Right now I’d rather a somewhat placid Calleja who really knows how to sing the entire role. By the way, not to be too picky, I believe VG made his house debut a few years ago in “Boheme”. But let me add my thanks to La Cieca for a thought provoking review.


    • marshiemarkII

      Tim, don’t know how great Calleja might sing the quartet, but you need to look no further than the last run of this production. Parterre “favorite” Piotr Beczala was nothing if not breathtaking!!!!! in the quartet. I still get choked up remembering how truly sublime he was. I saw the rehearsal, and three performances, because it was that glorious!, he was simply magnificent in the first act duet with Gilda, and in the quartet. The rest was just a tad less exalted, but those two parts I will not soon forget. I guess the DVD will be out soon and I will rush to have it!

  • DonCarloFanatic

    VG has no elegance, but he also appears to have no fear. This means we never get those dreadful pauses when the tenor is almost visibly trying to figure out just how to ascend, oh so carefully, to the top note. VG attacks it and clubs it to death. On the whole, I think he’s perfect as the Duke. May he play this role for the next 25 years--and no other.

    • la vociaccia

      That was my impression from the broadcast last night. Questa o quella was a combination of glorious free tops and trashy shouted lines, which as you said sort of works for a character like the duke, but I have trouble imagining him in FAUST or MANON, to name a couple of his calling cards. His beautiful Italian diction was certainly welcome: if he weren’t so obviously a lighter lyric I’d say he should do verismo

      • bassoprofundo

        His Italian diction is most certainly not beautiful. His vowels were a mess and sloppy due tot his over-affected singing.

  • quibbleglib

    Went last night based on JJ’s review, and left after a single act. Grigolo’s tenor was not “trumpeting” nor were his high notes “ringing.” The man bellows and whines and it is damn near excruciating to sit through. Perhaps my reaction would be less severe if all this hadn’t taken place at the Met, which somehow still retains the reputation of being the high temple of opera.

    • messa di voce

      “Perhaps my reaction would be less severe if all this hadn’t taken place at the Met”

      He should be limited to singing in Milan, Vienna, Paris, London and Munich?

      • quibbleglib

        Fine by me, as I rarely frequent opera houses in those cities!