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Rigoletto

Melodramma in three acts by
FRANCESCO MARIA PIAVE

First performance:
Venice, Teatro La Fenice, 11 March 1851

Critical Edition by
MARTIN CHUSID

The University of Chicago Press 1983

CHARACTERS:
DUKE OF MANTUA, tenor
RIGOLETTO, his court jester, baritone
GILDA, Rigoletto's daughter, soprano
SPARAFUCILE, hired thug, bass
MADDALENA, his sister, contralto
GIOVANNA, Gilda's guardian, mezzo-soprano
COUNT MONTERONE, baritone
MARULLO, knight, baritone
MATTEO BORSA, courtier, tenor
COUNT CEPRANO, bass
COUNTESS CEPRANO, mezzo-soprano
Court usher, baritone
Duchess's page, mezzo-soprano
Male chorus of gentlemen
Extras: ladies, pages, halberdiers 

The scene is in and near Mantua in the 16th century

Instrumentation: Piccolo/2 Flutes, 2 Oboes/English Horn, 2 Clarinets, 2 Bassoons, 4 Horns, 2 Trumpets, 3 Trombones, Cimbasso, Timpani, Bass Drum, Cymbals, Bells, Strings.
Onstage: Band, Strings; Offstage: Bass Drum; thunder, lightning, and rain machines *
Performance time: 2h

Based on Victor Hugo's tragedy Le Roi s'amuse (1832), which was banned in Paris after a single performance, Piave's libretto for Rigoletto underwent much rewriting before it satisfied both Verdi and the Venetian censors. Although the story had been transplanted from the court of France to the dukedom of Mantua, it was still considered too scandalous by many other cities, and alternative versions circulated for more than ten years. Yet although Rigoletto makes a break with traditional Italian operatic form and style, it was such a popular triumph that it has survived to the present as one of Verdi's greatest operas.

* The construction of the thunder machine is prescribed by Verdi in the score, and there are numerous indications for the precise application of the three types of storm effect.

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