The sought-after lyric tenor Piotr Beczala, is the womanizing Duke in this new production of Verdi’s Rigoletto from the Metropolitan Opera. Željko Luèiæ sings the title role and Diana Damrau sings Rigoletto’s daughter Gilda. This DVD and Blu-ray release appears in the Verdi year 2013, as music lovers around the world celebrate the bicentenary of the birth of Italy’s beloved composer.
This Rigoletto, filmed live at the Zurich Opera House in 2006, has three strong leads to recommend it. In the title role, Leo Nucci fully represents all of Rigoletto’s character traits and range of emotions—the hunchback’s lancing wit, fearfulness, and self-loathing when we first meet him and later, his obsessive need for revenge. Both Rigoletto’s sense of righteous triumph when he believes he’s got the Duke dead in the bag and his inconsolable grief at the drama’s end are palpable.
The opera, set at the ducal court in 16th century Mantua, opens with a scene in which the Duke, abetted by his jester Rigoletto, mocks Monterone, a courtier whose daughter the Duke has seduced. Monterone's curse on them both takes effect when the Duke, in disguise, finds his way into Rigoletto's house and declares his love for Rigoletto's beloved daughter Gilda, whom Rigoletto later unwittingly helps to abduct to the palace. There the Duke is able to betray her, and Rigoletto now plans to have the Duke killed. In the final act of the opera the Duke is closeted with Maddalena, sister of the murderer Sparafucile, whom Rigoletto has hired to murder his master. Maddalena persuades her brother to kill another in place of the Duke, and hand over his victim's body, concealed in a sack, to Rigoletto. Gilda, disguised as a man, overhears the conversation, and resolves to sacrifice herself. As Rigoletto gloats over what he believes to be the body of his daughter's seducer, the voice of the Duke is heard. Rigoletto tears open the sack, to reveal his dying daughter.
Verdi, child of the people, king of popular opera, began life as the son of an innkeeper. He was brought up in modest circumstances. He first received lessons from the village priest, who was amazed by the young musician’s talents. Verdi’s musical education was rounded and complete: at the age of sixteen, the composer wrote fugues, masses and symphonies, which he would later destroy. As he met with reticence in Milan, he settled in Busseto where he fell victim to the pettiness of the town. However, his strong willpower enabled him to pursue his musical path without paying heed to what people said…