Today we’re listening to…
“Bella figlia dell'amore” the quartet from Act III of the Italian opera Rigoletto by Giuseppe Verdi. Verdi’s skill at depicting complex characters and their frame of mind throughout this quartet reminds me of what makes opera special.
Luciano Pavarotti (tenor) is singing the role of the Duke in all four versions below while the baritone, soprano, and mezzo-soprano roles vary.
🎧 Listen here (4 minute listen):
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Rigoletto (Ree-go-leH-toe), revolves around the Duke of Mantua and his Court Jester, Rigoletto, whose daughter, Gilda, falls for a curse. Rigoletto has kept his daughter hidden away to protect her but Gilda (DJEEL-dah) has fallen in love with the Duke who disguised himself as a poor student.
In order to show Gilda the Duke’s true nature, Rigoletto brings Gilda to see the Duke seducing Maddalena (Mah-dah-leH-nah).
You are now convinced he was lying.
Hush, and leave it up to me to hasten our revenge.
It will be quick, it will be deadly, I know how to deal with him.
Gilda vows that she still loves him, meanwhile, Rigoletto has hired an assassin to kill the Duke, but Gilda, in attempt to save the Duke, is stabbed instead. 😳 Rigoletto, thinking he has the body of the Duke, finds Gilda near death, asking for forgiveness.
Verdi's Rigoletto is probably the most accessible opera for beginners (nice and short too—2 hours total!). And yet it also never fails to move me with one beautiful moment after another and the accessibility of the story. Stay tuned for more magic moments from Rigoletto in future editions.
Italian opera houses during Verdi’s time were censored by the government and wouldn’t allow for a new work in which a king was portrayed as a seducer! So Verdi and his librettist Francesco Piave (a librettist is a person who writes the text of an opera) reduced their bad guy from king to duke, and they allowed them to open on March 11th, 1851.
Verdi’s operas are a great example of music from the Romantic Period (1815-1910), a time when musicians loved to use music to tell expressive stories.
During the two days before Verdi’s death, Milan officials covered the street outside his home with straw so the sound of horse hooves would not disturb his rest. He died on January 27, 1901.
Thank you for listening,
I love opera. My problem is that my husband taught me all about it over the years (he was Italian) and now he is gone and I can't listen to it anymore! So, I've subscribed to your newsletter to see if I can dip my toe back into operatic waters. So far, so good. Okay. It's only been one day, but I'm not crying, so that's a good thing.
I saw a lovely performance of Rigoletto some years ago in Houston with Dmitri Hvorostovsky. We met him in the Green Room afterwards and he was so warm and funny. A very sad loss.
I'm going to keep trying with opera, so thanks for putting this temptation in my mailbox each day. Much appreciated!