Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901) is known as the father of Italian opera and nationalism. The world renowned Italian composer that encapsulated drama and passion completed a total of 26 operas in his lifetime. Verdi's operatic masterpieces made him one of the most signficant Romantic composers in the 19th century. Rigoletto is one of Verdi's most successful works. Rigoletto premeired in Venice on May 11, 1851, exposing society to new developments in musical style as well as experimental elements.
The way Verdi approaches the very beginning of this opera speaks volumes about his musical approach and intention. Instead of visually setting up the story for the audience, Verdi instead begins the opera with a short atmospheric prelude , allowing the audience member to envision their own environment. This emphasis on the power of imagination and creativity is the epitome of his musical style. Using this creativity, Verdi demonstrated complete and total control over every musical device that he had access to. Whether it was music, libretto, movement, or unspoken emotion, Verdi was able to seemlessly unify every element of his production. Verdi's meticulous and detailed choreography between the libretto, musical motives and the orchestration allowed Rigoletto to acheive a new level of "musical characterization." In other words, the unification of the vocalists and musical ideas created an emotional advance in Romantic opera. Though Verdi was rooted in the traditions of Rossini, Bellini and Donizetti, this particular production served as a way to break with tradition. In addition to the intensified musical characterization, Verdi modifies the role of the aria, which, up until that point, had never been touched. The famous quartet from Rigoletto entitled, "Bella Figlia Dell'Amore," is another example of Verdi's creativity in musical style. Each member of the quartet is expressing a different emotion, but ironically, the four voices sync together perfectly in four part harmony.
In my opinion, there are many similarities between Verdi's Rigoletto and Bizet's Carmen. Though the story lines are quite different, both operas unify melodic themes, orchestration and musical characterization in order to create a world seperate from reality. Verdi uses the power of imaginaion and suggestion to create a surreal atmosphere, where as Bizet uses Exoticism and cultural flavor to create a seperate reality. Both productions prove that music is powerful enough to intensify emotions and captivate the senses.
It is fascinating to learn about how the human body reacts to music. Even if it is just a short motive or a familiar theme, something that small is capable of triggering an emotion or reaction. For example, Carmen's Habañera theme is so simple, yet many people would recognize it and have some sort of internal reaction to it. In Rigoletto, Verdi was able to seamlessly orchestrate musical elements and details, evoking an even stronger emotional connection with the listener.
"Bella Figlia Dell'Amore- Rigoletto Quartet." Youtube video. Posted by Drelnis. Uploaded on 06 Jul, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q5NEOh-XhyA 2009. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q5NEOh-XhyA
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