Don Quixote Home Page Cervantes' Spain The Story Making Connections to the Arts Lessons [side curve]

Discovering Opera

Unit Overview

Who is Rigoletto?

What is the Structure of the Story?

Why Do These Characters Act This Way?

From Story to Stage

Developing a Libretto

The Composer and the Librettist

Operatic Conventions

How Do Words and Music Help Us Understand the Characters


The Enduring Quest
Man of La Mancha


Discovering Opera Icon

Discovering Opera through Rigoletto

Verdi and Piave: A Typical Partnership

Giuseppe Verdi and Francesco Piave were both verysuccessful men. Verdi had written many well-received operas, and Piave had written for all the best opera composers. Verdi and Piave worked together on several of the most successful operas produced anywhere in Italy.

Verdi thought that he had read a play that would make a great opera. It was called The King's Amusement, and was written by the very successful French playwright and author, Victor Hugo. Piave and Verdi started creating the opera immediately. Piave would write the words, and then Verdi would correct them. Verdi almost always found something to complain about in the words, but Piave was used to that, and he would just continue to write until Verdi was satisfied.

But they also had bigger problems. Italy at that time was not one country. It was made up of many small countries that were all being ruled by the Emperor of Austria. The emperor was worried about everything that happened in Italy. People were beginning to riot against his rule, and they were calling for their own country and their own king. The Austrian government knew that Verdi believed that an Italian king should rule Italy, so they looked very carefully at every opera that he created. They made Verdi change the title of the opera and change the king into a duke. Verdi did what they wanted.

Soon the opera was completed and rehearsals for the performance started. Verdi knew that he had written some of the best music ever for this opera, and he was afraid that someone else might want to steal it. He was especially proud of the Duke's song, "La Donna Mobile." He knew it would be a hit but he didn't want anyone else claiming the song. So he didn't give anyone the music until the day before the performance. He was right. The song was the hit of the show and the show was a smashing success.