Verdi’s Rigoletto is an operatic masterpiece considered to be one of Verdi’s best works during the middle of his career. We were introduced to this opera during the October 29th lecture, as we saw several different video clips of the Duke, Rigoletto, and Gilda.
The creation of this opera starts when Verdi was commissioned to make an opera for the La Fenice opera house. Verdi went to Francesco Piave to write the text. They soon discovered a play by Victor Hugo called Le roi s’amuse. The play was based on the unfaithful actions of Francis I of France. However, many believed it also referenced King Louis-Philippe. Due to this, Verdi and Piave had to change the setting from the French royal court to the Italian commune of Mantua and some of the characters so as not to offend anyone/avoid all Austrian censorship. Once this was squared away, Verdi and Piave worked all the way up until a month before the premiere. The opera premiered in March of 1851 to a sold-out opera house. The premiere was a success and many subsequent performances ensued. One aria, “La donna e mobile,” was so catchy that it was supposedly sung in the streets of Venice the next morning.
The success of the opera was due to a somewhat comical but ultimately tragic storyline and beautifully written musical pieces. Two such pieces were shown in class: the quartet “Bella figlia dell’amore” and the final duet between Gilda and Rigoletto, “Lassu in cielo” and “Non morir.” The former is masterfully created and the fact that Verdi was able to coherently put four main characters together for a quartet shows his musical prowess. The latter, “Non morir,” shows the emotional side of opera and subjects the audience to a heartbreaking scene where Rigoletto unveils the face of the corpse only to find in horror that it is his daughter. I find this scene very striking because we cringe and feel empathy as Rigoletto’s desperate cries are answered by a muted, painful response from Gilda. Do you like the works by Verdi we have seen in class thus far? Do you think Verdi’s Rigoletto is one of the best operas we have seen in class?