What is Rigoletto it about? This sounds like a simple question, which could be answered by telling the story of the Duke of Mantua, the city of Mantua, his hunchback jester and the jester’s daughter, Gilda. A story of love, deception, revenge, and death. The story, of course, is so close to the one told by playwright and poet Victor Hugo in his play Le Roi s’amuse (The King has fun), that they could appear the same thing. But anyone who loves opera will not be satisfied by this explanation. In the best operas, music is much more than an accompaniment to the story: it is through the power of music that the story unfolds into the drama. Verdi fell literally in love with Hugo’s play and was determined to translate it into music; despite his librettist Francesco Maria Piave‘s concerns, particularly over the fourth act culminating in the deposition of a dying Gilda in a bag. In a letter dated June 1850, Verdi explains the reasons he suggested as a title for the opera Monterone’s curse or, by the short, The Curse. “The subject is the curse as a moral element: A distraught father who mourns the honor taken away from his daughter, a […]
La Sonnambula was a complete triumph, since its premiere. The newspapers wrote of “a melody that goes to the heart, an instrumentation always beautiful and well built” and reported of “endless applauses”. The story revolves around the character of Amina, the archetypal of the slandered innocent.
Venice was an important and rich commercial centre, welcoming foreign merchants, businessmen dignitaries and aristocrats on the Grand Tour. The demand for entertainment was therefore high, particularly during the Carnevale, Some enterprising impresarios came up with the idea of setting up a public opera house, charging the public for the hire of boxes on a subscription system. The business turned out to be profitable. In a few years 16 theatres were built requiring a big number of new operas. By the end of 1600 the repertoire counted about 300 operas.
Opera, until then the favourite entertainment of aristocracy and educated classes, was going to change radically as a consequence of the French revolution. In the three decades of the rise and fall of Napoleon, opera social function changed completely and irrevocably.