Rigoletto, 1851
Rigoletto, of all Verdi’s roles for baritones, is complex, changing and set to music of great emotion, violent and sweet – all in his declaration to the courtiers who have abducted his daughter, “Cortigiani, vil razza dannata". For Australian audiences, it was a role belonging to Michael Lewis Zeljko Lucic made it his and Dmitri Hvorostovsky  chose it as his farewell at the Met.

Quick Links

Synopsis Libretto   History Full video with English subtitles (Pavarotti, Wixell, Gruberova, Vienna Philharmonic cond. Chailly, 1982)
Rigoletto was seen then and now as Verdi’s coming of age opera. Premiering in 1851 seven years after Ernani, (he was 38) it was his 17th opera. Thus began his ‘middle-period’ – Rigoletto, Il Trovatore and La Traviata – all cohesive, fast moving operas in which plot, character development and interaction are defined and driven by music. Listen to ROH conductor Alexander Joel explaining that. Verdi based it on Victor Hugo’s play Le Roi s’amuse, which he thought worthy of Shakespeare. (The censors forced reallocation of the villainous lecherous character from king to duke.) This opera is more a seamless web of surging music than a line-up of arias. As in Nabucco, we have the chorus as character, here the character of a corrupt aristocracy. As in Ernani, we have superb trio and quartet singing, here brilliantly mixing voices of protagonists hidden from each other.
Rigoletto is an acknowledged masterpiece that demonstrates Verdi’s complete grasp of his musical materials. The action proceeds almost continuously, so the audience rarely perceives artificial breaks for conventional arias. The orchestra conveys moods and unspoken emotion, perhaps most notably in the storm music of the final act. Even minor characters are delineated musically—for example, through distinctive rhythmic, melodic, or harmonic patterns. The quartet “Bella figlia dell’ amore,” is a marvel of simultaneous characterization, beautifully integrated into the larger context. (From Britannica, with many links)

Character in Music

It’s an opera full of ‘familiar’ great tunes – but they are also profound statements of character. . The Duke -  “La Donna e mobile” is a performance piece for tenors, from Caruso  to Pavarotti to Florez. But it is also structural to the opera, the key to his moral emptiness, pinning the points where the Duke wins his evil way. The aria in which we discover Gilda, “Cara nome”, is a gem for sopranos, from Callas (here ending with the highest note)  to Scotto to Sutherland and Dessay. It creates her innocent character, set in the light gentle notes and the sweetness of the flute.

Beginning Friday May 18th

Our production - Metropolitan Opera, NY 1977, conductor - James Levine. Duke of Mantua (tenor) - Placido Domingo, Rigoletto (bar) - Cornell Macneil, Gilda (sop) - Ileana Cotrubas, Sparafucile (bass) - Justino Diaz.
Michael Platianas as Rigoletto in the 2018 ROH production by David McVicar (screened here last February).