Rigoletto, Opera by G. Verdi
Even after Christmas Eve and Christmas Day have come and gone, there is no reason to stop the fun of the festive season. Under this motto, St Paul’s Within the Walls Church on Via Nazionale in Rome puts on a chamber performance of Giuseppe Verdi’s enormous classic opera Rigoletto. In an intimate arrangement for strings, woodwinds and piano, the opera’s full plot lets the story unfold so close to the audience as never before. The church’s remarkable interior contributes to the effectiveness and appeal of Verdi’s masterpiece, making this performance truly special.
Never one to shy away from powerful political statements, Verdi created Rigoletto to expose the debauchery of the aristocracy and to condemn its enablers. With a libretto by Francesco Maria Piave, itself heavily based on Victor Hugo’s controversial play Le Roi s’amuse, the opera takes us to the court of the Duke of Mantua, an incorrigible womanizer with little regard for human dignity and grace. His court jester, Rigoletto, specializes in encouraging the Duke’s immoral behaviour and mocking the victims of his endless lust. But Rigoletto keeps a secret: his only daughter, whom he wishes to protect from the depravity of the court. Soon enough, however, she falls into the Duke’s luscious trap, and the jester’s double standards catch up with him.
The explosive plot of Verdi’s Rigoletto lends itself beautifully to a chamber arrangement that puts the Maestro’s melodic gift front and centre. As the storyline takes turn after turn, the dramatic tension rises to an emotional crescendo that will shake the church’s walls. The charge of the confrontations and the blistering arias and duets reflect off the venue’s characteristic mosaics to produce a truly unforgettable experience. Rigoletto had its premiere at Teatro La Fenice in Venice on 11 March 1851 and made a permanent spot for itself in the operatic repertoire. Over one and a half centuries later, the innovative performance at St Paul’s Within the Walls Church in Rome lets audiences see this classic in a different light.