‘Rigoletto’ potpourri: a tale, trivia, and a magical performance

MOT's 'Rigoletto' opened May 14

Editor’s note: All month long, in honor of Verdi’s birthday, we will celebrate all things Verdi on Operatoonity.com. This Golden Operatoonity repost features my favorite Verdi opera “Rigoletto.”

Giuseppe Verdi’s Rigoletto premiered in Venice, Italy in 1851. Based on a story by Victor Hugo, Rigoletto is a darkly tragic, gut-wrenching opera that ends in a senseless death. But at least for one performance at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden circa 1948, Rigoletto turned into a bit of a comedy:

English tenor Walter Midgley was playing the Duke.  During the aria “Questa o quella,”  a lively, upbeat piece, Midgley caught the end of his fake mustache in his mouth and gradually sucked in the entire thing, which eventually lodged itself in his windpipe. If losing his fake mustache wasn’t enough of distraction, at the end of the aria, Midgley managed to blow it out across the stage, into the orchestra pit, and right into the conductor’s face.

According to Bachtrack, the world’s best way to find live classical music, Rigoletto was one of the ten most performing operas in the world  in 2009-10.

Tenor David Lomeli singing the Duke in COC's 'Rigoletto'

Canadian Opera Company is doing Rigoletto this season with a first-rate cast.

In celebration of Rigoletto’s 160th anniversary, here is a link to “Questa o quella,” sans any extra slapstick comedy, from one of my favorite productions last season, Rigoletto a Mantova, as sung by the ever-appealing Italian tenor  Vittorio Grigolo.


Filed under Microtales, Opera and humor, Premieres

5 Responses to ‘Rigoletto’ potpourri: a tale, trivia, and a magical performance

  1. Ann Lander

    Rigoletto a Mantova was shown live in England and I recorded it off the TV. I’d already seen Domingo sing baritone in Simon Boccanegra so I sort of knew what to expect & I thought it was fabulous.

    In January 2010 I booked a trip to Italy not knowing at the time that I would be staying in Milan the very week after Rigoletto a Mantova was broadcast on TV. While there, I went to Mantova and had a wonderful day visiting the locations used in the opera. I spotted a Rigoletto a Mantova poster on a door and asked a guy if I could buy it. He said I could have it – turned out I was speaking to the Producer Andrea Andermann and to my acute embarrassment I hadn’t recognised him. He was very gracious and signed my poster & it’s one of my treasured possessions. I recently saw Faust at ROH & managed to get Vittorio Grigolo to sign the poster. Only Plácido Domingo’s, Julia Novikova’s, Ruggero Raimondi’s, Nino Surguladze & Zubin Mehta’s autographs to get now!!

    Andermann told me it would be released on DVD but there’s no sign of it yet. I asked Grigolo as well & he didn’t know. Thank goodness I still have my recording.

  2. admin

    Thanks for the heads up on the Rigoletto interview. That was quite interesting. I saw Alden’s Don G. at NYC Opera and liked it very much (though more than a few people in the audience hated it. Alden’s vision for a production is polarizing.)

  3. Amzenon’s comment on PD summarizes my take on his performance quite nicely. My own YouTube viewing contained many comments along the lines of “Hmm, I’m not sure this is really working… dang it, he made me cry.”

    Re: the COC’s current Rigoletto, Definitely the Opera has recently posted an extensive interview with the director, Christopher Alden; I thought you (and your readers) might be interested.

  4. Hello, amzenon. They didn’t carry the program in the US, so I’ve watched it by putting YouTube clips together. All the countries that got to see this event and US wasn’t one of them.

  5. amzenon

    I watched this Rigoletto on tv. PD is not the greatest ‘baritone’, but he is the greatest PD. And it is fully understandable why all women fall for VG.