Jun 15, 2008

[Rigoletto] III. The score

Act I

I'll easily admit that the first 15 minutes of the score are forgettable and basically not an ideal way to get hooked to this overall admirable piece.
The main reason is the obvious similarity with the beginning of La Traviata: same context, same structure and same harmonies. Yet, let's remember the plagiarism is on La Traviata's side, composed after Rigoletto, although it has become through the years Verdi's most performed opera; obviously a decadent young woman is more appealing to the masses then a bipolar hunchbacked jester whose stupidity is literally bigger than life.

Anyway, after the first frivolous scene, the score gets more and more interesting as the action unfolds.

The first jewel is undoubtedly Monterone's maledizione (Act I, scene 6) when the score suddenly looses all foolishness and switches to fit the dramatic appearance of this deceived father. The violins' line when he sings is a wonderful preview of the end of the act, when Rigoletto realizes he contributed to his own daughter's kidnapping.
The dichotomy of the score, constantly oscillating between easy-listening bars and dramatic intensity is I believe, its biggest asset throughout the entire opera and certainly one of the main reasons for my unconditional love for it.

The only aria of Rigoletto (Act I scene 8), though libretto-wise especially irritating and condescending, is musically full of dark emotions briefly lightened by the flute line and acts as the perfect introduction for the exquisite duet between him and his daughter Gilda.
This duet (also pretty dumb libretto-wise) is unforgettable and the highlight of the first act, especially the part below:
"Solo, difforme, povero,
Per compassion mi amo.
Ah! moria... le zolle coprano
Lievi quel capo amato.
Sola or tu resti al misero...
Dio, sii ringraziato! ..."

Act I middle of Scene 9, Rigoletto, Sony live recording, 1994
Renato Bruson as Rigoletto, Andrea Rost as Gilda,
Riccardo Muti conducting the Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala.

Act I finale, Rigoletto, Sony live recording, 1994
Riccardo Muti conducting the Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala
Listen to the extraordinary breath of the orchestra at 2:38 min.

Acts II & III

The second act opens on the Duke's aria "Parmi veder le lagrime" and is overall the less compelling of the three.

The last act on the other hand is fantastically well-balanced and a marvel of orchestration on Verdi's part.
The highlights are the magnificent 2-movement quartet "Ebben, osserva dunque" that starts with the mega hit "La donna è mobile" and especially the second part "Bella figlia dell' amore", the Tempesta scene, and of course the finale where the theme from the end of Act I is modified, ending with Rigoletto's heart-breaking last shout, "La maledizione!".

YouTube extracts

- "Parmi veder le lagrime" Jussi Björling
- "Bella figlia dell'amore" Siepi, Peters, Valletti, Thebom
- same aria, Filippeschi, Gobbi, Pagliughi

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