Rigoletto, Opera by G. Verdi
The performance of Rigoletto by Maestro Giuseppe Verdi at St Paul’s Within the Walls Church in Rome confirms one thing: classic operas do not always need a bombastic arrangement. In harmony with the venue’s pious interior, the well-known masterpiece comes in a stripped-down arrangement for strings, woodwinds and piano, while retaining its engaging and exciting plot in full. This reimagining of one of Verdi’s defining works comes on the heels of several excellent Christmas performances at the old Protestant church on Via Nazionale, and it adds another remarkable musical event to the festive series.
Rigoletto had its premiere on 11 March 1851 at Venice’s famed Teatro La Fenice. The libretto by Francesco Maria Piave borrowed heavily from the politically incendiary play Le Roi s’amuse by French author Victor Hugo. The opera’s main themes are the depravity of the ruling class and the danger of moral duplicity. The main character, the court jester Rigoletto, lives a double life. At work, he supports the womanizing and dishonouring behaviour of his master, the Duke of Mantua. At home, he raises his only daughter Gilda to be pure and far away from the court’s corruption. However, Rigoletto cannot keep these two opposite worlds apart for long, and the collision between them leads him down a dark path.
The fiery storyline of Rigoletto feels at home at St Paul’s Within the Walls Church. In the unique atmosphere of the holy temple’s mosaics and high ceilings, a full opera cast drives the action forward with the support of a chamber orchestra that lets Verdi’s musical imagination shine without much ornamentation. Classics such as the Duke’s eternal aria ‘La donna è mobile’ resound mightily through the performance venue and bring a special kind of festive feeling that you would not want to miss. Verdi’s classic opera in the Maestro’s beloved Rome is the epitome of seasonal celebration.