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Opera: Rigoletto



By Giuseppe Verdi

The Opera

Rigoletto – a three act opera by Giuseppe Verdi.

The libretto (in Italian) was written by Francesco Piave based on the play Le Roi S'Amuse by Victor Hugo.

The first performance was at La Fenice in Venice on March 11, 1851.

It is considered by many to be the first of the operatic masterpieces of Verdi's middle-to-late career.

Verdi had been commissioned to write a new opera by the La Fenice opera house in Venice in 1850.

Having stumbled upon Victor Hugo's “Le Roi S'Amuse” a play which was banned in France at the time, Verdi was intrigued with the subject matter despite the charges that had led to the play’s banning.

A King as an immoral philanderer and womaniser was not acceptable in Europe at that time.

After enormous difficulties with the censors, the “King” was changed into a Duke and the court was moved from France to Spain.

The work was secretly referred to by the composers as “The Malediction” (The Curse) and the hunchback, originally called “Triboulet” became “Rigoletto” from the French word “rigolo” meaning “funny”- so Rigoletto was born. 

The première, was a triumph, and the Duke's “hit aria”, "La Donna è Mobile", which had not even been sung at rehearsals for fear of unauthorised copying, was sung everywhere in the streets the next morning.

Many years later, Giulia Cori, the daughter of the original Rigoletto, Felice Varesi, revealed that her father was so uncomfortable wearing the false hump, he had a panic attack just before going on.

Realising he was paralysed with fear, Verdi pushed him roughly from the wings causing him to stumble onstage.

The audience, thinking it was a gag, roared with laughter.

Today, “Rigoletto” remains one of the most regularly performed and popular operas. 

Artists who have contributed to many well-known productions include Jan Peerce, Robert Merrill, Leo Nucci, Ingvar Vixell, Enrico Caruso, Luciano Pavarotti, Edita Gruberova, Reri Grist, Piero Capucilli, and Nellie Melba.   

More information on the Opera Arts Rigoletto Poster here.

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