Rigoletto, a masterpiece of Italian opera by Giuseppe Verdi, is one of the most performed of all operas. It was a hit at its opening in Venice in 1851 and has remained an enduring favorite. The Italian libretto written by Francesco Maria Piave was based on the play Le roi samuse by Victor Hugo that depicts one of the many womanizing episodes of King Francis I of France.
Rigolettos popularity rests on Verdis gift for melody. Each one of the three acts is packed with memorable tunes. The most famous, La donna mobile, is one of the best known arias of all time. But there are a dozen other unforgettable numbers such as the love song Caro Nome.
The story deals with an egocentric politician, an innocent young girl and a fathers curse. Rigoletto takes us on an emotional journey that is at the core of the operatic experience.
The plot is dark and tragic. Rigoletto is the poisonous-tongued hunchback who is the court jester of the licentious Duke of Mantua. He delights in egging on the Duke to torment his courtiers and seduce their women. In Act I, he takes it too far and is cursed by the aged Monterone, whose daughter has been one of the Dukes conquests. Rigoletto secretly hides his beautiful daughter Gilda, away at his home in the city. When the Duke finds and seduces Gilda, Rigoletto arranges to have him murdered, but the vengeance goes horribly wrong and falls on him instead. The curse comes to fruition when Gilda likewise falls in love with the Duke and eventually sacrifices her life to save him from the assassins hired by her father.
With the exception of Gilda, each character in the opera is repugnant, ranging from the amoral Duke to the scheming courtiers and the hired assassin Sparafucile, whose introduction to Rigoletto in Act I is a fabulously dark and inventive trio between bass, baritone and cello. Even Gildas easily bribed maid/servant contributes to the tragedy.
The triumph of the opera is that the music makes us live the lives of its characters - good, bad and ugly - and stays in our heads long after weve left the opera house. But dont take my word for it, judge for yourself. I have included two clips of my favorite tenor Vittorio Grigollo in the role of the Duke. Enjoy!
Carmen Ileana Romn writes a regular column for fredericknewspost.com.