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Ghost Canyon

'Verdi - Jonathon Miller's Rigoletto'
(John Rawnsley, Marie McLaughlin, et al / DVD / NR / 2007 / Kultur Video)

Overview: In Jonathan Miller's brilliant interpretation of Verdi's opera, the story of Rigoletto unfolds in New York's mob-controlled Little Italy in the 1950's. Rigoletto, a clowning bartender, moves about in a world of criminals, thieves, and murderers - a world he keeps his beloved daughter, Gilda, well away from. During a party to celebrate the Feast of San Gennaro, Rigoletto makes one joke too many, angering Don Monterone, who puts his curse on him. And so, a fatal chain of events are set in motion as Gilda meets the philandering Duke and the story moves toward its tragic conclusion.

DVD Verdict: I have been watching Jonathan Miller's 'Rigoletto' since I was little and it is the most inspiring and beautiful opera/movie I've ever seen ... even for people who don't appreciate classical music! I was wondering when someone would finally put it out on DVD and now they lovingly have. Now, for those of you that don't know, Jonathan Miller first produced and directed 'Rigoletto' in 1975. Instead of placing the action in 16th-century Mantua, as tradition would have it, he moved it up to the 19th century, which he felt would be more compatible with Verdi's score. Then in 1982, Mr. Miller went further, transferring the opera to Little Italy in New York City in the 1950's, the world of the godfather and the Mafia. The result attracted international attention, not to mention a cascade of bravos and Bronx cheers.

The killjoys should note that Mr. Miller does not intend to update the entire opera repertory. In his 1986 book 'Subsequent Performances,' he wrote: "People now ask me what I am going to do next to 'Don Giovanni' . . . as if I have now found a formula and will automatically use it with all operas. But this cannot be done to any opera, let alone to Mozart." So relax, and enjoy!

Performed before an audience by the English National Opera, the production was taped by Thames Television. If you haven't seen Mr. Miller's provocative interpretation of this opera chestnut, you should. The presentation runs for just over two hours and is worth every viewing second spent with it. This is a Full Screen Presentation (4:3) but comes with no Special Features.