Rigoletto, Opera by G. Verdi
Giuseppe Verdi was keen to ruffle feathers and challenge convention, and his grand opera Rigoletto is no exception. Based on the incendiary play Le roi s’amuse by Victor Hugo from 1832, the intense drama is packed with moral and social critique. Most of all, however, Rigoletto is a gripping stage work that has been impressing audiences ever since its premiere at Gran Teatro La Fenice in Venice on 11 March 1851. Verdi’s inimitable dramaturgical skill ensured the opera’s complete triumph already on that opening night. Standout numbers, such as the Duke of Mantua’s aria ‘La donna è mobile’, have acquired a life of their own. At Arena di Verona, the drama and the plot twists gain even more epic proportions thanks to the majestic ambience. To make your experience of Rigoletto in the City of Love even more exciting, the ticket includes a sightseeing train tour of the numerous historic sites in and around Old Town. Opera meets history and culture in a very real sense!
The task of adapting Hugo’s controversial and anti-royalist play for the opera stage fell upon Francesco Maria Piave. Even with his keen sensibility and sharp quill, the libretto met with strong scepticism from the Austrian imperial censors. After much discussion, the action of the original production was set in 16th-century Mantua, a small Italian duchy. Rigoletto, the hunch-backed court jester to the Duke of Mantua, enables and celebrates his master’s endless affairs. Always hungry for new romantic conquests, the ruler is not squeamish about dishonouring the wives and daughters of his courtiers. With his sharp tongue and acerbic humour, Rigoletto is quick to add insult to injury. But the jester is hiding a precious secret: his only daughter Gilda lives with him in hiding, for fear of the Duke’s insatiable lust. There comes a point, however, when Mantua, disguised as a student, seduces Gilda. Rigoletto, appalled to see his daughter falling in love with such a chauvinistic womaniser, hatches a deadly plan.
Even though imperial censors worked hard to scale back the impact of Rigoletto, Verdi’s indomitable sense for high drama and musical narration persisted. At Arena di Verona, the finely tuned emotional ebb and flow, the emotion-laden melodies that match characters and events perfectly, and the intense plot twists once more confirm the maestro’s undying vision and talent. To keep travelling in time a little longer, the Verona sightseeing train will immerse you in the atmosphere of centuries past. The ‘trenino’ will take you around cathedrals, such as Duomo di Verona, where Gilda might have said a little prayer for her love, or castles such as Castel San Pietro or Castelvecchio, not unlike the one where the Duke of Mantua committed his dirty deeds. Riding down the riverbank of the Adige, you can enjoy the historic sights and let your imagination run a little wild. The tour is available on the day of the performance as well as one day before or after, to best suit your schedule on your visit to Verona. The round trip starts every 30 minutes at Piazza Brà and lasts around 25 minutes.