Rigoletto was first produced at the Teatro La Fenice, Venice, in 1851, and is generally seen as marking the beginning of Giuseppe Verdi’s extraordinary middle period. It was followed in quick succession by Il trovatore and La traviata, and even after the great success of these two works Verdi regarded it as his ‘best opera’ up to that time. Based on Victor Hugo’s play Le Roi s’amuse, which was banned after its premiere in Paris in 1832, the opera faced considerable difficulties with local censors before performance was permitted. In the story of the hunchbacked court jester and his beloved daughter, Verdi believed he had found “the greatest subject and perhaps the greatest drama of modern times”.
The guide contains articles on the place of Rigoletto in Verdi’s oeuvre and the background to its composition, a detailed examination of its musical structure and a survey of its performance history including discussions of some of its most distinguished interpreters. A further article highlights aspects of the opera’s particularly Italian character. The guide also includes the full Italian libretto with English translation, sixteen pages of illustrations, a musical thematic guide, a bibliography and discography, and DVD and website guides.
The Making of Rigoletto, Jonathan Keates
The Music of Rigoletto, Roger Parker
A Selective Performance History, George Hall
Rigoletto: Libretto by Francesco Maria Piave after Victor Hugo’s play Le Roi s’amuse
Rigoletto: English Translation by William Weaver
For anyone with a keen interest in opera, whatever their level of knowledge, this series remains a benchmark of quality and clarity. The content is serious, reliable and trustworthy, handsomely put together, full of variety and scholarship but always making the practical experience of going to the opera a priority. I return to these volumes again and again and find the updated and new issues absolutely invaluable.
These guides, so beautiful to have and to behold, mark a huge advance on their predecessors. I find them essential supplements, not only to ENO and Royal Opera programmes, but to recordings issued on CD which often come without scholarly documentation and a libretto. The performance histories … are especially valuable, and not easily accessible elsewhere.
I am delighted to see the return of the ENO Opera Guides, bigger and even more authoritative than before. There are authoritative new articles as well as several of the irreplaceable originals, the presentation is very handsome and a decided gain is the brilliantly chosen selection of production images, in colour as well as black and white. The Guides are an invaluable reference for opera lovers at any level.
This uniformly excellent series is indispensable for the serious opera lover, all the more so now that almost all the CD companies have abandoned issuing a libretto with their opera releases, and have such scant background information. The English translations are on facing pages with the original texts, and in all respects the books are helpful and compact, and interestingly illustrated.
Giuseppe Verdi (1813–1901) is one of Italy’s most celebrated opera composers. His best-known operas include Rigoletto, Il trovatore, La traviata and Aida.