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Understanding Italian Opera$
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Tim Carter

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780190247942

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190247942.001.0001

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Francesco Maria Piave and Giuseppe Verdi, Rigoletto (Venice, 1851)

Francesco Maria Piave and Giuseppe Verdi, Rigoletto (Venice, 1851)

Chapter 5 Francesco Maria Piave and Giuseppe Verdi, Rigoletto (Venice, 1851)
Understanding Italian Opera

Tim Carter

Oxford University Press

For the first of his great middle-period operas, Giuseppe Verdi collaborated once again with the theater poet of the Teatro La Fenice in Venice, Francesco Maria Piave. As was not unusual within the genre, Rigoletto adapted a controversial play, in this case Victor Hugo’s Le Roi s’amuse (1832); it also faced severe difficulties from the theatrical censors during its creation. Piave adheres to the poetic norms for librettos, with some expansion owing to changes in nineteenth-century verse forms. Verdi also expanded the musical vocabulary in a move toward “continuous” opera while still adhering to such conventions as the tripartite cantabile–tempo di mezzo–cabaletta form. Rigoletto certainly made an impact, thanks not least to the baritone Felice Varesi in the title role; it also reveals how the Ricordi publishing house took control of the production mechanisms for Italian opera during the nineteenth century.

Keywords:   cabaletta, cantabile, Hugo, La Fenice, Piave, Ricordi, tempo di mezzo, Varesi, Verdi

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