Rigoletto: Verdi's Tragic Jester

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Olga Peretyatko sings the role of Gilda in Verdi's 'Rigoletto.'

Even before Rigoletto's Venice premiere in 1851, Verdi knew that "La donna è mobile" would be a huge hit. He instructed the orchestra members not to whistle or sing the melody, and he even waited until the very last moment to give the music to the tenor. Verdi wanted to ensure that the third-act aria characterizing the Duke of Mantua's licentious treatment of women would have maximum impact on an unsuspecting audience. The opera was an immediate smash hit. It was one of the first of Verdi's operas to establish him as a great international composer, and its many memorable melodies still reverberate in opera houses across the globe. 

On this episode of He Sang/She Sang, we speak with Tony Award-winning director Michael Mayer, who created this "Rat Pack" version of Rigoletto that opened at the Met in 2013. Updated to a 1960 Las Vegas casino setting, Mayer tells us that Frank Sinatra was the original model for the Duke of Mantua. We also speak with soprano Olga Peretyatko, who is performing the role of Rigoletto's strong and self-sacrificing daughter, Gilda. Listen to learn  more about Verdi's tragic jester.  

Merrin's YouTube pick (Plácido Domingo, Vittorio Grigolo, Julia Novikova, Nino Surguladze, 2010:

 Jeff's YouTube pick, No.1 (Luciano Pavarotti, 1964):

 Jeff's YouTube pick, No. 2 (Luciano Pavarotti, 1982):

 This episode features excerpts from the following album:

Verdi: Rigoletto (London, 1989)
— Luciano Pavarotti, tenor; Leo Nucci, baritone; June Anderson, soprano; Shirley Verrett, mezzo-soprano; Orchestra of the Teatro Comunale di Bologna conducted by Riccardo Chailly