REVIEW: The body in the bag: ‘Rigoletto’ to be screened in Grass Valley |

REVIEW: The body in the bag: ‘Rigoletto’ to be screened in Grass Valley

The Del Oro plays host to one of the darker, more tragic tales in opera, an art form filled with dark and tragic tales. Verdi’s early masterpiece was meant to be entitled “La Maledizione” (The Curse), but Italy’s Austrian rulers were uneasy with the libretto’s curse against an aristocrat, so enforced the name change, as well as pressing for other changes. Still, it is a curse that drives the plot, a father’s curse against his daughter’s seducer, the heartless and lascivious Duke of Mantua. The father, the mocking, cynical court jester Rigoletto, is like a dragon guarding his golden horde, his daughter Gilda, held in secret. The censors, without whose approval a production could not go forward, also objected to Rigoletto’s deformity. Verdi wrote to his librettist Francesco Piave: “I note they have avoided making [Rigoletto] ugly and hunchbacked! A hunchback who sings? Why not? . . . Will it be effective? I don’t know. But if I don’t know, then neither does the person who suggested this change. I find it very beautiful to portray this character, extremely deformed and ridiculous, yet within full of passion and of love.”

Based on Victor Hugo’s play “Le Roi s’amuse,” Verdi creates evocative soundscapes for each character that captures their essence, and not without irony. The villain, the handsome, devil-may-care Duke of Mantua, gets the pretty melodies, including the familiar “La donna e mobile.” “Rigoletto’s sonic cloak is woven with darker hues. Unlike the Renaissance-era persona of the title character, the Duke strikes one as our contemporary. His blithe enactment of a perverse droit du seigneur leaves bodies in its wake. As with many such “players” he remains blissfully ignorant of the havoc he wreaks.

“Rigoletto” deserves its permanent place in the repertoire; it is a work full of melody, plot twists and turns, and ultimately, heartbreak. Of course, heartbreak. It is in the way of things that through his own actions the malevolent jester Rigoletto brings the curse down upon himself and suffers the worst of all possible fates, as attendees will see. Moments worth waiting for include the signature aria “Caro nome” and the extraordinary Act III quartet with Maddalena, the Duke, Gilda, and Rigoletto. Ravishing music, among the master’s finest. If you are afraid of opera, or imagine that it’s just stuffy, or that you won’t like it, “Rigoletto” provides an excellent, accessible entry into the world of high musical drama.

John Deaderick is a local theater instructor and the author of “Make Sweet the Minds of Men: Early Opera and Tragic Catharsis,” available at

“Rigoletto“ provides an excellent, accessible entry into the world of high musical drama. “Rigoletto“ will show Sunday, Jan. 29, at Del Oro Theatre in Grass Valley.
Provided photo


WHO: Del Oro Theatre presents

WHAT: The Met Opera Live in HD – “Rigoletto”

WHEN: Saturday, Jan. 29, at 9:55 a.m.

WHERE: Del Oro Theatre, 165 Mill Street, Grass Valley

TICKETS: $24 Adult, $22 Senior, $20 Student/Child. Available online at or at the Del Oro Theatre Box Office

INFO:, 530-477-9000

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