When Victor Hugo brought his play »Le roi s’amuse« to the stage for the first and last time in Paris in 1832, the performance ended with the immediate banning of the play.
When the Italian Risorgimento composer Giuseppe Verdi decided to set the revolutionary French author’s play to music almost 20 years later, he faced resistance from the censorship authorities. He had to change the name of his melodrama from »La maledizione« (»The curse«) to »Rigoletto« and change its setting to the court of a fictional Duke of Mantua, but he left the plot and its blatancy untouched. Rigoletto incites the dissolute Duke to constantly seduce and abduct beautiful women, treating their families with derision. He is then cursed before the entire court by the distraught father of a woman he has dishonoured.
Rigoletto, however, hides his daughter Gilda from the shameless goings-on. Nonetheless, the Duke has his eye on her. When Gilda succumbs to the Duke’s arts of seduction, Rigoletto plans a deadly revenge. In the end, however, it is not the Duke but Gilda who falls victim to the plot.
The universally known tenor hit »La donna è mobile« becomes a cynical code for failure. In Verdi’s first mature work, the trivial, the grotesque, and high pathos are all intertwined. The contrasts between garish banda music and expressive cantilena form an uncompromising masterpiece of tremendous brevity and sharpness.
In Cooperation with the Metropolitan Opera Pre-performance lecture, 45 minutes prior to each performance (in German)
Francesco Maria Piave (Autor/in)
Giuseppe Verdi (Komponist/in)