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Duke of Mantua


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(Verdi: Rigoletto). Ten. A libertine leaving a trail of discarded young women in his wake. In church he has seen a lovely lady whom he fancies as his next conquest. He does not know she is Gilda, daughter of his court jester, Rigoletto (nobody knows that Rigoletto is a widower with a daughter, and it is generally presumed that the lady is his lover). Disguised as a student, Gualtier Maldè, he manages to slip into Rigoletto's house and make his feelings known to Gilda. When she is abducted by the courtiers and brought to his palace, he seduces her and her father swears revenge. Sparafucile is hired to kill him. Sparafucile's sister Maddalena entices the Duke to a local tavern, where his behaviour is secretly observed by Gilda and her father. Maddalena finds him attractive and her brother agrees not to kill him, on condition that they kill someone else in his place so that their hirer (Rigoletto) can be presented with a body in a sack. This plan is overheard by Gilda, who disguises herself as a man and is mortally wounded when she enters the tavern. As Rigoletto gloats over the sack, his revenge complete, he hears in the distance the Duke's voice singing. Arias: Questa o quella (‘This one, or that one’); È il sol dell'anima, la vite è amore (‘It is the sun of the soul, life is love’); La donna è mobile (‘Woman is fickle’); quartet: Bella figlia dell'amore (‘Fairest daughter of love’). This justly famous quartet is led by the Duke, and he is joined by Maddalena, Rigoletto, and Gilda, each singing of their own thoughts about the scene which is being played out—Maddalena laughing but giving in to the Duke's amorous pleading, the distressed Gilda brought here by her father to observe how the Duke behaves, and Rigoletto bent on vengeance. It has been recorded many times (often coupled with the equally famous sextet from Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor). The most celebrated disc was made in 1917 with Enrico Caruso, Amelita Galli-Curci, Flora Perini, and Giuseppe de Luca. [note: In the 1832 Victor Hugo play (Le Roi s'amuse), on which the libretto is based, the action took place in the French court and the main character was the King but production in this form was forbidden by the censor. In order to have the opera accepted for performance, Verdi and Piave moved the setting and altered the names of the characters, the tenor role becoming the Duke of Mantua.] Created (1851) by Raffaele Mirate.

Subjects: Opera.


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