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RIGOLETTO NOTES:

General:

Librettist: Francesco Maria Piave


Date: 1851 (March)
Theatre and City: Teatro La Fenice, Venice
Source Material: Le Roi samuse
Source Material Author: Victor Hugo
Source Material Date: 1832

Issues of Innovation:

OPERATIC FORM
o CHANGING THE TYPE OF MUSIC THAT CREATES
CONVENTION
o Less use of double-arias, only one for the Duke, the
other is inverted:
o EG. Cortigiani, vil razza dannata
Feeling of a double-aria but the 1st movement is
fast and second is slower (reverse of conventions):
THIS IS BECAUSE THE DRAMA REQUIRED IT
Starts with Rigoletto demanding information
and then ending up sad and begging the
Courtiers.
o More flowing in than before
David Kimbell: Caro nome aria juxtaposed into
the entrance of the Courtiers. Their sinister music
undelays Gildas beautiful vocal line on top.
Act III Quartet Breaks all templates of what
numbers should be.
Split stage, almost like two juxtaposed
duets, two different dramatic strings.
The confrontation of Madonna and
Magdalene.
David Kimbell: Act III Storm Scene:
Storm builds through the La donna e
mobile reprise to madalennas arietta and
then the trio.
o It connects the wholse scene together
as one and mirrors the build of the
drama to catastrophe.
o Only a male chorus (no female chorus at all):
Used in innovative ways, for example, the storm
chorus in act III with them being the wind.
o David Kimbell: NO arie di sortita:
None of the three main characters do

Even the Dukes one-movement ballad is worked


into the fabric of the introduction so doesnt serve
the purpose of an aria di sortita
DEVELOPMENT OF MUSICAL PERSONAE FOR
CHARACTERS
o EACH CHARACTER HAS A DIFFERENT SORT OF MUSIC TO
CHARACTERISE THEM
o The clear musical conflict between the il brutto of
Rigoletto and the il bello of The Duke:
Rigoletto has a very harsh Baritone voice, uses a
lot of parlante singing and irregular forms of
music.
This matches the visual: cripple, ugly, old,
low-of-stature.
Duke has very big and beautiful tenor voice, use
of full voice basically throughout, very regular
forms used for arias.
This matches the visual: beautiful, young,
high-of-stature.
DOMINANCE OF DUET
o Five duets in the opera, Gildas character is created
through duets.
o Verdi saw the opera as an unbroken chain of duets
o Became the defining form of the opera as opposed to
the aria.
APPROACH TO VOCALITY
o PARLANTE STYLE
Seen through Rigoletto more than anyone else
o Development of the dramatic baritone:
Using Varesi (a singing actor) and the complexity
of the character to inspire angular, harsh vocal
lines with a high tessitura that often sounds, and
is meant to sound brash.
Eg. None moreso than his last few note
***LOOOK UP!!***
EXTENSIVE USE OF DRAMATIC IRONY
o Def: when the audience has information about the
narrative that the character doesnt
o Many Examples:
Act 1: Rigoletto does not know he is kidnapping
his own daughter.
Act 3: Sparafucile and Maddalena think Gilda is a
boy
Act 3: Rigoletto thinks the body in the sack is the
Dukes
INCOMPLETENESS OF WORDS

o Ending musical passages mid-sentence, no definitive


conventional cadential ending.
o HELPS DRIVE THE PLOT BY PUTTING SUSPENSE IN THE
AUDIENCE, WHEN WILL THEY FIND OUT RATHER THAN
WILL THEY FIND OUT!
o Act III egs.:
Duke of Mantua falling asleep e di pen
Gilda dying mid sentence
o DUKES SLEEP:
Even more effective because of his formal
composition. He is written in such a conventional
way that the sleep has even more of a surprising
dramatic effect, dragging the drama back to the
impending doom.
o GILDAS DEATH:
Idea that not everyone needs to die neatly as is
convention.
ONSTAGE/ OFF-STAGE JUXTAPOSITION
o Making the audience look beyond what is onstage and
creating a context in which the opera is in.
o STORM ACT III:
You are hearing the offstage chorus being the
storm, the storm is closing in putting the tavern in
the context of the outer world.
Symbolic of the doom closing in on th storyline.
o Cortigiani Vil Razza Dannata hear Rigoletto singing
offstage before he enters the scene.
Again the dramatic irony of a happy Rigoletto sets
in before we even see the character.

Operatic Form:

David Kimbell: Verdi by now had developed to a point where


any of the forms of the ottocento opera were not sacred but
rather he used/abused them for dramatic effect.
David Kimbell: Verdi still using conventions but for specific
dramatic effects eg. The Duke of Mantua
o Uses convention to make a point!
David Kimbell: Very clear structure but not drawn arund with a
thick black pen they are used for dramatic purposes rather
than to show he can use them.
OPENING SCENES:
o UNPRECEDENCTED variety in music:
Dukes comic opera ballad, minuet, Rigolettos
sacrcasm and Monterones curse.

Roger Parker: one of the most complex and richest


opening scenes attempted up till then.
David Kimbell: Use of the Banda music to lick all
the different periodic sections together
continuity is matched and enhances the dramatic
continuity of the start.
David Kimbell: Sense of kicking off straight away
with the drama, we are joining the show in the
middle of the story.

Five Arias:
o Only one in double-aria form (Possente amor, Act II)
o Three in single movement form
Five Duets
o Seen as most important for for the opera
o Verdi (in a letter to Carlo Borsi):
Sees Rigoletto as anunbroken chain of duets
NO grand finales to acts
Lack of Recit:
o David Kimbell: Act 2 has no recit. The orchestra
connects the different scenes together and drives the
drama forward.
Male chorus only
NO RECITATIVE IN ACT II (flows through Duets and
parlante style)

Vocality:
Rigoletto:
o Dramatic Baritone
o Extreme use of parlante.
Duke of Mantua:
o Lyric Tenor
o Beautiful legato lines and captures the traiditional idea

of a tenor voice through his three arias.


o Beauty of voice matches the beauty of his character and
stature.
Gilda:
o Lyric soprano
o Voice florid and energetic, captures her nave and young
personality.
o In Act III her vocal line transforms into a more mature
line and is no longer dictated by Rigoletto or The Duke.

Musics Articulation of Drama:


**********

Source Material
Hugos play was very contentious and seen as an attack on
the king and so banned by all the censors.
Verdi had previously set Hernani as Ernani (1843) and so has
worked with Hugo as a source material before.
VERDI LIKED HUGO FOR HIS powerful, passionate and original
characters
VERDI COMPARING RIGOLETTO and ERNANI
o More revolutionary, youthful and original in form and in
style.

Thematics:

Theme of LOVE:
o Love becomes a central theme in his next few operas.
Idea of a PERILLOUS Love that undermines the
opera.
o Paternal/filial affection
Seen through relationship between Gilda and
Rigoletto
Important due to the development in Italy at the
time towards a more autonomous family unity.
Gildas fight to love who she wants to love is
something a lot of women of the time could
affiliate with.
Fathers love is shown through need to protect his
daughter but ends up killing her.
o Romance
Seen with Gildas love for Duke eg. Caro Nome
A more conventional form of love with more
conventional type of music
o Eroticism
Seen best through the Duke and Madalenna scene
in the quartet.
Madalennas vocal line is provocative in a
slight parlante style whilst the Dukes is in
his upper register, evoking a feeling of erotic
pleasure for him.
Theme of seduction and rape:
o 19th century Italy, rape considered a crime against
honour
Punishment was to correct that value eg. Marriage
payment, prison.
o Therefore, any suggestion of rape had to be lost from
the music and libretto. The handing over of a key, a
symbol of taking virginity was lost.

o GILDA (16 years old) would not necessarily have known


what had happened between her and The Duke.
Women were often kept in ignorance.
Death of virtue:
o Epitomized in the rape, seduction and death of
Gilda
o Abramo Basevi (critic) : Death scene was a situation so
disgusting
o

Staging and Performance:

CASTING:
o Rigoletto Felice Varesi
o Gilda Teresa Brambilla
o Duca di Mantova - Raffaele Mirate
Teatro La Fenice, Venice:
o Venice was a REPUBLIC so was more likely to take risks
on such a controversial story as that of Victor Hugos.
Censorship even in Venice:
o Issue of Duke going into a room with Gilda and a key (a
symbol of taking virginity).
Symbols were huge at this time, lots of symbols
around for the Risorgimento etc.
o King had to be changed to Duke
o BUT- because it was set in the past it didnt get as much
persecution from censors as it would have done if set in
the present.
o Gilda & Duke Duet ended in a musical kiss because
censors would have censored an actual kiss.
Huge double cadenza evokes the idea of a kiss
o In Other Theatres even heavier censorship was
employed like keeping Gilda alive.

Characterisation:
David Kimbell: Rigoletto presented Verdi with new and exciting
characters, allowing him to create musical personae for each
of the characters.
RIGOLETTO
o Very parlante style of music, no real aria
o David Kimbell: Cortigiani, vil razza dannata
example of Rigolettos dramatic character.
Double-aria in reverse to show the demise of
his character in the scene.

Undermined throughout by dramatic irony,


the audience knows what is happening to
Gilda.
Starts with greatest energy and authority
but ends exhausted and frustrated.
Example of parlante singing style
Vocal line often sitting on one note (a C) for
a long period of time in the middle of the
aria.
DUKE OF MANTUA
o USES CONVENTIONAL FORMS AND HIS MUSICAL STYLE
IS UNCHANGING THROUGHOUT THE OPERA
o David Kimbell: 3 conventional arias with a very formal
nature
Reflective of the idealism of the Duke by using
ideal and familiar structures.
David Kimbell: 3 aria La donna is diegetic music,
a song that The Duke knows but at the same time
sums up his personality and beliefs women are
fickle
o This fits with the vision of him, high of stature, beauty
and young.
o Duke does not develop throughout the opera and his
final La donna mobile is the ultimate knife through
Rigolettos heart. Its dramatic effect works because of
his unchanged musical and emotional nature.
GILDA
o BECOMES MORE SIMPLISTIC AND MORE EMOTIONALLY
REVEALING AS THE OPERA PROGRESSES.
o David Kimbell: Not the typical Prima donna musically
Eg. no aria di sortita
Teresa di Giuli-Borsi wanted an extra aria written
for Gilda but Verdi refused.
o David Kimbell: Gilda is characterized through her duets
(she is in 4 of the five duets)
She is not her own entity but rather reacts to The
Duke and her father.
Even in her own aria!
o Caro nome (Gilda), Act 1:
Single movement aria
Follows on and respons to two duets (with
Rigoletto and the Duke)
David Kimbell: Very florid and virtuosic, idiomatic
of a nave and young girl.
Taken out of real time (suspended in time) and
shows her love for the Duke.
o David Kimbell: Only by the end of the Act III trio does
she develop and become her own entity!

o FINAL DUET Vho inganatto


David Kimbell: Gilda dictates the pace, mood and
music of the final duet for the first time in the
opera.
David Kimbell: Gilda FADES rather than going out
with a bang.
CRITICAL RECEPTION
Critics generally appalled by the ugly storyline
Saw Gilda as a warning against extreme femininity, leads to
acts to suicide for unrighteous people.