AP Entertainment Writer
NEW YORK (AP) -- When a second cast takes over a new opera production, it's not unusual for a sense of faintly dull routine to settle over the proceedings.
But that's hardly the case with the Las Vegas-inspired production of Verdi's "Rigoletto" now back on view at the Metropolitan Opera and seen at its second performance Tuesday night.
There's no danger of dullness with charismatic Italian tenor Vittorio Grigolo in the role of the callous Duke of Mantua. From the moment he bounds on stage in a white dinner jacket to grab a fake microphone and sing his opening aria, "Questa o quella," Grigolo exudes a swaggering sex appeal and brash self-confidence that perfectly match his character. He tends to deploy his bright, metallic-edged voice in a take-no-prisoners style, but he can also scale it back for subtler effects.
This is only Grigolo's second appearance at the Met, following a successful debut in "La Boheme" in 2010, but he seems sure to be a frequent visitor in future. Next season he will have the relatively rare honor of giving a solo recital in the house.
Joining him are the affecting lyric soprano Lisette Oropesa as Gilda and the sturdy baritone George Gagnidze as her father, Rigoletto. Oropesa, a graduate of the Met's Lindemann Young Artist Development Program, has been steadily taking on more significant roles at the house and has emerged as a budding star. Her sweet, slender sound and slightly diffident manner nicely conveyed her character's fragility, and she sculpted a lovely line in the aria "Caro Nome," with only a couple of scratchy high notes marring its impact.
Gagnidze has a big, beefy voice with flexibility that allows him to crest over the orchestra in Rigoletto's climactic outbursts of rage and despair and still display a softer-grained tenderness when he joins Oropesa in the opera's great father-daughter duets.
Marco Armiliato, who has taken over conducting duties for the second run, leads a brisk, straightforward reading of the score, while adapting his beat considerately to the singers.
The Michael Mayer production, all neon lights and glitz, doesn't really have anything insightful to say about the opera and, most problematically, it reduces the title character to just another "Rat Pack" hanger on. But it's fun to watch, and audiences respond enthusiastically. There are four more performances through May 1, and "Rigoletto" will be back for eight performances next fall -- with another almost entirely new cast.
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