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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

This unit is geared for later elementary and middle grades. It fuses language arts and music to explore one of Verdi's first masterpieces. It explores the opera from the standpoint of plot and character and then examines how Verdi uses operatic conventions and tonal shading to create dramatic tension and unforgettable musical characterizations.

To successfully complete this unit, a teacher should have a recording of the complete opera that includes a libretto with a good translation. The Black Dog Opera Library Series fulfills this requirement admirably. All references to the CD will be to this recording. In addition, after completing the units you may want to show your students a video of the entire film. The only currently available version is the Jean-Pierre Ponelle film starring Pavarotti. Preview this tape first, as there may be some material that you find objectionable in the second act.

In this unit, there are 8 lessons of varying length:

You may print the entire unit in unformatted HTML or print each lesson individually by clicking the icon at the top of each lesson. The full-unit version differs slightly from the individual lessons, which adhere to the ARTSEDGE lesson template.

The following Internet resources may be used to extend and enhance the unit:

Lesson and Specific Resources:

Stanford University: Rigoletto

This site contains synopses, librettos, performance history, and pictures of the opera Rigoletto.

General Internet Resources:

San Francisco Opera: Learn About Opera

The San Francisco Opera has a great "Learn about Opera Site." It also has a wonderful interactive education section that students could access.

Education at the Met

Visit the Texaco Opera Learning Program at the Met. Special categories to explore are Creating Original Opera, and Growing up with Opera.

OPERA America: K-12 Resources audiences/k12/index.html

The Arts Education Leadership site is host to Opera America. You can find information on this program for all levels of K-12.