An opera in three acts by Giuseppe Verdi.
There will be an interval of six minutes between Acts 1 and 2
(Anna Pollack, Edmund Donlevy, Harvey Alan, Harold Blackburn, Glenice Halliday, and Charles Mackerras appear by permission of the Governors of Sadler's Wells)
Second performance: Thursday at 7.0
The scene is laid in Mantua in the fifteenth century
Act 1 Scene 1: A hall in the Ducal Palace
Scene 2: A deserted end of a blind alley
Act 2 A room in the Ducal-Palace
Act 3 A road-house on the bank of the River Mincio
The story is told by Sir Steuart Wilson.
In the spring of 1853, Verdi was hard at work on the ambitious scheme of setting King Lear to music when he wrote to his collaborator Antonio Somma: 'In my opinion monotony is the besetting sin of our Operas. They have interesting isolated themes but they lack variety. They are played, so to say, on one string, of a fine quality if you will, but always the same. That is why I prefer Shakespeare to every other dramatist, the Greeks not excepted. In my opinion the best subject that I have yet set to music as regards effect pure and simple (I am not talking of its poetical or literary merits) is Rigoletto....'
Oddly enough, the coarse Victor Hugo melodrama on which the opera is based, acquires in Verdi's hands an almost Shakespearian greatness. The story of the misshapen court jester obsessed by the curse of a dishonoured father whom he has mocked, and lead inevitably to the dishonour of his own daughter and to be the unwitting cause of her death, becomes in Verdi's score a study of human nature which stands comparison, in terms of music, with the Shakespearian characters who rise to greatness in their misery and evoke our pity in their evil.
For this reason, and not because the score contains such well-known favourites as 'La donna e mobile', 'Caro nome' and the famous quartet, Rigoletto has been chosen as the first complete Verdi opera to be televised. The popularity and the easy flow of its melodies has inevitably brought them down to music-hall or barrel-organ level or caused them to become virtuoso displays labelled with a star name. Yet Verdi did not intend them as such. In the words of that eminent Verdi critic, Francis Toye: '"Caro nome" is not a show-piece intended to display the virtuosity of this or that prima donna. It represents, truly and movingly, a young girl's thoughts of the lover who has just left her. It should be sung quietly, without effort, with the coloratura falling into its proper place as an expressive subsidiary, not emphasised like a set-piece in a display of fireworks.' The television production of the opera will follow these lines; the stress will be on the drama. So that the leading characters will not be lost 'among the throng and will stand out clearly from the very first pages of the score the guttering stage opening in the court ballroom filled with dancing guests will deliberately be avoided. To get away from the customary and cumbersome stage picture with its late sixteenth-century costumes the opera will be played against a background inspired by Italian Renaissance painters.
Rigoletto is a hundred and one years old. The opera has been played in many languages in every corner of the world before enthusiastic audiences. The list of famous singers who appeared in it include Varesi (who created the name part at La Fenice Theatre in Venice on the first night of the opera, March 11, 1851), Titta Ruffo, Riccardo Stracciari, Carlo Galeffi; Caruso, and Gigli in the part of the Duke; Tetrazzini, Galli-Curci, and Toti Dal Monte in the role of Gilda. But in the words of the composer himself, Rigoletto was not intended as a singer's opera: 'I have conceived Rigoletto without arias, without final tableaux, just as a long succession of duets'. And it was after seeing a performance of this opera that Rossini, the doyen of the operatic composers of the Italian school, declared: 'In this music I at last recognise Verdi's genius'.
English version by:
The story is told by:
Settings and costumes:
George R. Foa Rigoletto: Edmund
Gilda, his daughter:
The Duke of Mantua:
Sparafucile, a hired murderer:
Maddalena, his sister:
The Count of Monterone:
Marullo, a courtier:
The Count of Ceprano:
The Countess of Ceprano:
Matteo Borsa, a courtier:
Giovanna, Gilda's nurse: