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 […]
Operatic voices are divided into 4 categories: soprano (high female), alto (low female), tenor (high male) and bass (low male). There are also 2 intermediate voices: mezzo soprano, female voice and baritone, male voice between tenor and bass. There are many more subtle distinctions used to define the range, tone, colour and timbre of a voice. They developed as a consequence of increasingly demanding roles which required more specific vocal types.
Bellini’s premature death allowed finally Donizetti to take the title of “Main Italian composer” left vacant by Rossini a decade before. On the other end, his sickness and death spared him the humiliation of being ousted again by the irresistible rise of Verdi.
Verismo composers were mainly opera composers; the new generation of composers was different, more eclectic. Franco Alfano’s two symphonies, among the most relevant Italian compositions of the first half of the 20th century as well as Zandonai’s remarkable collection of orchestral and chamber works show that their non-operatic compositions weren’t certainly occasional. Franco Alfano, as most knows, composed the music for the last 2 scenes of Turandot, Puccini’s last opera left unfinished after the composer’s death in 1924. Puccini had left sketches for the end of the opera, along with instructions to Riccardo Zandonai to finish it, yet, following Puccini’s son objections, to work on the draft and finish the opera, was instead chosen Franco Alfano. Both Alfano and Zandonai can be defined as “operatic symphonists” : they embodied a new way to define the relationship between music and drama. The drama was no longer described by the music; it was precisely the opposite: the drama provided the frame to the music. This process can be seen at its most in Zandonai’s Francesca where entire acts can be defined as symphonic poems. Since 1890 Wagner’s scores had spread widely in Italy. The scale and magnificence of the composer’s major works led […]