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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


The Composer and the Librettist

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Length: 1-2 days



Language Arts, Performing Arts

Subtopics: Theater, Music, Literature
Intelligences Being Addressed: Interpersonal, Musical/Rhythmic, Verbal/Linguistic
Dimensions of Learning: Acquisition and integration of knowledge, Extension and refinement of knowledge, Meaningful use of knowledge

Students will delve into the world of the composer and librettist. Their relationship to each other and to the opera is explored. Verdi and Piave's partnership is discussed along with the social and historical events that were occurring during their lives.


TV/video player
CD player
Bulletin board

Materials: The Black Dog Opera Library Series
video starring Pavoratti (Jean Pierre Ponelle film version)
Hand Outs:

Direction Cards
Rigoletto's Story; part 1 and part 2
Verdi and Piave: A Typical Partnership


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 understand the role of the composer and the librettist, and the social history during the time when Rigoletto was created.


Teacher-directed instruction
Silent reading
Class discussion
Critical thinking skills
Compare and contrast

Instructional Plan:

1. Define the terms COMPOSER and LIBRETTIST. Ask the students if they can think of other areas in which people create things in partnership?

2. Introduce Verdi and Piave as the composer and librettist team.

3. Read the information on the composer and the librettist at the end of this unit. What was happening in the world at the time of this writing? How did the situation in Italian politics at this time contribute to the writing of the opera?

4. Rigoletto was based upon a play by the famous French writer Victor Hugo. Hugo also wrote the book on which the musical Les Miserables was based. Can the students think of other times when books or plays have been turned into other art forms? Why do they think that people change these from one art form to another?

5. Hugo's play was originally called The King's Amusement. The government censors in Italy would not let the opera be written about a king? Why do the students think that this might be?

6. On a sheet of paper have the students list the advantages and disadvantages of working in a creative team.


Do students understand the relationship of the composer and the librettist to each other and to the opera?


Continue to lesson 7.

Teacher References:

Black Dog Opera Series Rigoletto CD


Submission Date: November 1, 2000

© ARTSEDGE, 2000