Rigoletto, Opera by G. Verdi
Giuseppe Verdi had a rebellious streak and a keen sense for social justice, just two of the qualities that made him the towering cultural figure he is. Rigoletto demonstrates the Maestro’s knack for political critique as well as his powers of musical innovation and creativity. Teatro Costanzi, Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, stages the timeless Verdi masterpiece.
After Macbeth, rarely had a piece of drama moved Verdi as much as Victor Hugo’s scandalous play Le roi s’amuse. Librettist Francesco Maria Piave worked tirelessly on the text in order to maintain its dramatic power while bypassing the keen eye of the censors. To do so, he transformed the King into a Duke and moved the action from France to Mantua, in hopes that the diminished scale would help the opera avert harsh censorship.
While Piave was walking that tightrope, Verdi was busy producing one of the finest operatic scores of his whole career. Rigoletto is rich with unconventional, intricately avantgarde arias and deep musical characterisation. It contains the timeless aria ‘La donna è mobile’, one of Verdi’s calling cards.
The quartet ‘Bella figlia dell’amore’ also deserves special mention. It demonstrates Verdi’s total mastery of vocal composition and character development, transcending time and space to reveal four major characters’ motivations, both in internal monologues and regular dialogue. Rarely has such musical complexity sounded so effortless and beautiful!
The storyline of Rigoletto is dedicated to exposing the debauchery of absolute rulers and to showing the high price of being complicit with this moral downfall. The Duke of Mantua has fallen prey to his own insatiable lust and has dishonoured many of the wives and daughters in his aristocratic court. His sharp-tongued hunchbacked jester Rigoletto ruthlessly mocks the Duke’s victims and their families, thus playing his part in the court’s slow decay.
However, the vicious Rigoletto harbours a gentle and loving side, too, and it is entirely dedicated to his only daughter Gilda, whom he keeps as far away from the corrupt routines of the court as he can. The Duke’s lust knows no bounds, and he manages to win Gilda’s heart, forcing Rigoletto to take drastic measures, which ultimately cause him to lose what he holds dearest.
Rigoletto debuted on 11 March 1851 at Venice’s Teatro La Fenice and instantly became one of Verdi’s most beloved and successful operas.