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Who is Rigoletto?

Lesson 1 of the Discovering Opera Unit

Length: 1-2 class periods



Language Arts, Performing Arts

Subtopics: Theater, Music, Literature
Intelligences Being Addressed: Musical/Rhythmic Intelligence; Verbal/Linguistic Intelligence
Dimensions of Learning: Acquisition and integration of knowledge

An explanation of the opera Rigoletto will be followed by a closer look at the first section of the story. Students will listen to the music, discuss the dialogue, and concentrate on the elements of tragedy and comedy.


TV/video player
CD player

Materials: The Black Dog Opera Library Series video starring Pavoratti (Jean Pierre Ponelle film version)
Hand Outs: Rigoletto's Story; Part 1
Student Supplies: Pencil and paper
Teacher Internet Resources:

Lesson and Extension-Specific Resources: See unit overview

General Internet Resources: See unit overview


National Standards for Arts Education:
Music 5-8, Standards 6, 7, 8, 9
Instructional Objectives:

Students will discuss how music can be used to help tell a story.


Direct questioning
Classroom discussion

Instructional Plan:

1. The story of Rigoletto is set in Italy during the Renaissance. In the story, the Duke has the power of a king. As a warm up, discuss what the students think it would be like to be a king. What do they think it would be like to be ruled by a king? What stories do they know that describe good kings? What stories describe bad kings?

2. Explain that an opera is a story that uses words and music. What other stories do they know that use words and music?

3. Read or tell the story of the first section of the Rigoletto story at the end of this unit. Pause at the indicated place to play music from the overture (CD1, Tr1).

4. Identify the main characters in the story. What do we know about them?

5. Using the information in the story, how do the students think that it will end? Is this a tragedy or a comedy? Discuss the elements of tragedy and comedy.

6. Relay the opera overture, which was composed by Verdi. How does the music tell us about the story? Do you think that this helps us know if the story will end tragically or comically?

7. Each student will write an ending to the story. How do they think that the conflict between the characters will be resolved? How will the curse affect the main characters?


Were the students sensitive to the mood of the musical selection? Did they demonstrate the elements of tragedy or comedy in their answers?


Continue to lesson 2.

Teacher References:

Black Dog Opera Series Rigoletto CD


Submission Date: November 1, 2000
© ARTSEDGE, 2000