Friday, March 11, 2005


I’m particularly pleased with my Don Giovanni as Austin Powers idea because it illustrates better than I ever imagined possible the problem with opera today. The problem isn’t with opera—it’s with us. Austin and the Don are both men constantly on the make, men aggressively pursuing sexual encounters. Why don’t we feel the same desire to see Austin cast into hell?

It fills my requirement that the production must explain the action on the stage, and it fills it far better than most modern productions manage to do.

Does the Planet of the Apes concept explain anything about Rigoletto? Planet of the Apes is a parable about racial hatred. Rigoletto is a man whose physical deformities define his life but not his soul. He tries to maintain an island of beauty for himself, while living his life in the midst of debauchery. His job requires him to ridicule this debauchery for comic effect. How well he succeeds in this task is the plot of Rigoletto. Can he keep the inner goodness in the midst of outer evil? Ultimately he fails.

There’s also a feminist element that I’ve never seen exploited: the plot is also about masculine desires to keep their own females sexually pure and prevent them from growing up, an unwillingness to let women control their own destinies.

Casting the opera into Planet of the Apes makes it about prejudice against deformity. These prejudices explain why he’s a jester, but they don’t explain the rest of the plot at all. The actions of the court toward Rigoletto’s daughter are based on their perception that he is the same as they are and not on a perception of difference.

The tragedy of Rigoletto lies in the success of his pretense—it never occurs to them that he doesn’t share their values. We weren’t told how Rigoletto dressed. Is he dressed as a human in an ape suit? No, I cannot get this concept to cast any light on the plot of Rigoletto. He creates his tragedy. The others are merely the means. His deformities explain why these two very different types of people are thrown together, but Rigoletto creates his own fall.

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