I’ve always thought that the music for the opening chorus of Rigoletto foreshadowed the modern party political conference. It is a piece about court sycophancy and conspiracy which says everything about political intrigue.
There’s a long tradition of resetting opera to make satirical points. Ned Sherrin and Alistair Beaton did it in the Kinnock and Thatcher era with the Metropolitan Mikado and the Ratepayer’s Iolanthe. More recently Music Theatre London set the trend for pithy new translations which led to a resurgence of exciting new small scale opera productions. But we seem to have lost the politics.
Rigoletto feels as if its authors had anticipated our most recent political incumbents – the powerful, confident stride of Blair the leader, imperiously parting the faithful as he strides with his sycophantic train to the dais. And in the shadows the poison dwarf, reviled by the rest of the party, who will ultimately aid his leader’s downfall, played by Alistair Campbell. I often thought there was great scope for a New Labour Rigoletto with that pair and possibly Prescott as a lumbering Sparafucile. But the opportunity passed by.
However, when Andrew Lansley started putting forward his health reforms, with the Lib-Dems performing U-turns on a daily basis I realised that the music and story fitted the current administration just as well.