Vincenzo Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua attended the successful performance of Peri’s Euridice in Florence, which was probabily witnessed also by Monteverdi himself. The Duke realized immediately the originality of this new entertainment and the prestige that would reflect on the lord that sponsored it.
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 […]
Locked in my room, I recite the characters’ parts passionately and study my voice: its inflections, the tempo and pauses, in short the emphasis a man uses when he’s at the mercy of his passions. I then identify the right tempo and melody in order to allow the singers to express those passions by the means of harmony. I put the ideas on paper, try them on the harpsichord. When I feel the same emotion I wanted to express I judge I have succeeded; if I don’t, I look again for inspiration until I feel I’ve achieved my goal”.
The main difference between Opera and the previous polyphonic vocal music is the unique melodic line, resulting from the merging of bass and singing. In polyphonic music different vocal lines work independently, overlapping one another and making a text often incomprehensible. Opera instead offered a new way for making words expressive and intelligible, by creating a single melodic line, supported by an accompaniment.