Just a teaser because it's late; and until tomorrow, enjoy the photos and just a few words -- tonight at 7PM Juan Diego Florez debuted in Europe his Duke of Mantua, his first big Verdi role (unitl now he had steered clear of all Verdi except for his delicious Fenton) that he had introduced to the world in Peru two months ago.
At 9PM -- just the time to crudely edit out all intermissions and the big ovations after the big arias -- Arte Tv has broadcast the entire show via satellite. Here are some images from the insanely bad production -- whose director thought a good idea to burden JDF with a terrifying mullet, a tragic ponytail in Act II, 1970s dinner jackets, leather trench coats, leather vests (revealing not-so-toned upper arms -- el mejor tenor del mundo needs to hit the gym a bit because, for once, we'd like our opera legends of today and tomorrow and of the day after tomorrow to be ripped, if at all possible) -- the Duke of Mantua in the Dresden production was in fact the Duke of Star Trek, presiding over a court of devils, lizards, crows, space aliens with grey metallic skin, topless girls with giant pigeon heads.
How was his Duke, ignoring the visual horror of the production? Juan Diego created a nervous, capricious monster of egotism with a hidden romantic, sweet streak -- whose lighter tenor voice cannot obviously match the greatest, thuggish Dukes of the past, but whose beautiful phrasing, warmth and clarity -- oh the sheer beauty of Florez's voice -- can make us understand not the Duke, but Gilda better.
Because it makes us understand how is it even possible to die for his lies -- even his "dear name", of course, is as phony as everything else about him. The fact that Gilda was Diana Damrau -- not simply the queen of the night but one of the very few queens of nowadays opera, really at the top of the game -- only made the night more special. And it was difficult not to swoon for the Staatskapelle's sound, thanks to Fabio Luisi's intelligent reading of the score -- a dark, burnished hearbeat pulsing through the night, with a wonderful transparency of sound, rich of German depth and Italianate warmth.
Of course, with a different, saner director in Niki Lehnhoff's place and Leo Nucci as Rigoletto we'd be able to call tonight's Rigoletto "the Dresden Rigoletto" the same way we say, fer example, "the Lisbon Traviata". But since the only true giant of this impossible role, il maestro Leo Nucci, wasn't part of the cast, we can only say that, yes, Zeljko Lucic's Rigoletto was vocally correct, if dramatically inert. Much more, of course, tomorrow.