Music: Three Cheers for the Partisans

In Europe, the opera revolution has arrived

What does it matter when and where an opera is set? Does the nature of Verdi's Rigoletto fundamentally change if the action takes place in the court of France (Verdi's original intention), 16th century Mantua (his ultimate choice) or even 20th century Manhattan as long as the relationships among the characters are preserved? Adventurous stage directors, for whom tradition is the memory of the last bad performance, are answering that in many cases, it does not. "Tradition is slovenliness," exclaimed Gustav Mahler. His cry has never seemed more apt, and it is being taken up with brio in the opera world.