From the WQXR review of Rigoletto at the Met
As much as Verdi has resisted updating, his tale of a nasty hunchback court jester whose daughter is killed by his own need for revenge arrived here in the early-‘80s as a gangster movie courtesy of Jonathan Miller and the visiting English National Opera. More recently in Wales, the Duke of Mantua’s decadent court became the Oval Office. Mayer’s production did everything that a Las Vegas setting threatens to do — colors never seen in nature, pole dancing, glitzy satellite chandeliers (not unlike the Met’s) and even Met titles with modern English colloquialism. Some wondered aloud why the translation even bothered to keep names like “Duke.” Why not Frank and Sammy?
Having never experienced an Opera before, and not knowing anything about the plot of Rigoletto other than what I read in Playbill, the modern setting and translation went a long way in helping me understand Verdi. In general, the few productions I’ve seen in the past few years have had odd elements alongside original text that seemed to have been put there to soften the harshness of unfamiliar colloquialisms. Superhero costumes in Shakespeare, and even the staging of Rigoletto help to make this otherwise stuffy content accessible.