Words and Music Help Us Understand the Characters?
Arts, Performing Arts
Acquisition and integration of knowledge, Extension and refinement
of knowledge, Meaningful use of knowledge
The last lesson in this unit pulls together the words and the
music. After learning about traditional operatic vocal types,
students analyze scenes. How do the words, vocal types, and music
set the scene and tell the story?
Black Dog Opera Library Series
video starring Pavoratti (Jean Pierre Ponelle film version)
students should have their handouts from the previous lessons:
and Piave: A typical Partnership
Rigoletto's Story; part
1 and part
Construction paper, markers, scissors
and Extension-Specific Resources: See unit overview
General Internet Resources: See unit overview
Standards for Arts Education:
5-8, Standards 6, 7, 8, 9
will identify and describe ways in which the words and the music
of the opera help to define the characters.
Critical thinking strategies
As a warm up, ask students to think of examples in which words
or music help to describe a character in television shows or movies.
Introduce the students to the four traditional operatic vocal
types (soprano, contralto, tenor and baritone). Explain that each
vocal type traditionally sang certain kinds of roles. The soprano
was the heroine, the tenor was the hero, the baritone was often
either the villain or the noble friend of the tenor.
Listen to the Duke's song (CD2, Tr12) in Rigoletto
and examine the words of the aria. Do you believe that the
Duke is a hero like most tenors? How would you describe the Duke?
4. Examine the character of Rigoletto. Where does he act like
a villain? Where does he act like a good father?
Read the libretto
and listen to the selection (CD2, Tr5). Why does Rigoletto sing
such a carefree song? Do you think that he is really happy in
that situation? How do the words and the music tell you this?
Read the libretto and listen to the selection (CD2, Tr6). What
words tell you of Rigoletto's emotions? Does this aria have only
one emotion? How does the music help you understand the emotions?
Examine the characters in the opera and classify them by vocal
type. Do the characters match the usual conventions of vocal type?
Is Rigoletto a villain? Is he a noble friend? Is the Duke a hero?
Using construction paper, scissors and markers, have the students
create two masks for Rigoletto, one depicting his role as the
rather mean court jester and one as the loving father. When in
the opera would Rigoletto use each mask?
demonstrate the understanding that characters may sometimes have
a public and a private face.
At this point in the study, students should have demonstrated
a clear knowledge of the subject matter of the opera. You may
elect to devote some class time to showing them a video of the
complete opera. You may also opt to show only selected portions
of the opera if you do not have time for the entire video. You
may also want to explore
a new opera or operetta. Perhaps they could take their notes
from the lessons in this series and come up with their own opera.
Dog Opera Series Rigoletto CD