The story has been moved from 16th century Italy to 1960s Las Vegas, and the principle character of the duke has been replaced with a big-shot casino singer -- a Frank Sinatra-type -- with an eye for the ladies. There are also pole dancers, showgirls in feathers and neon lights to create a gaudy gambling-hall atmosphere.
The director behind this re-envisioning is Michael Mayer, a Tony Award-winning Broadway director who had never directed an opera before. "I thought 'Las Vegas, that's the place'," said Mayer at the production's first rehearsal. "It's all about power and money and drinking and drugs. And it's sex, sex, sex with whoever you want."
Many of the cast members had performed "Rigoletto" dozens of times before--but none had ever seen a staging quite like this. "When I hear this idea about Las Vegas, my first reaction was shock," said Piotr Beczala, a tenor from Poland, who plays the duke.
But Mayer saw a deep similarity between 16th century Italy and 60s Rat-Pack-era Vegas. "Both environments have an incredible amount of depravity and licentiousness and power and money and women and wild festivities that go beyond the bounds of what ordinary people would consider to be a typical evening out," Mayer said.
A 60 Minutes crew, led by producer Ruth Streeter and correspondent Bob Simon, followed Mayer's production from first rehearsal to final curtain call and, in this week's 60 Minutes Overtime feature (above), Streeter offers opera and Broadway fans a rare--and chaotic-- look backstage as Mayer's "Rigoletto" came to life.