Opera Concert Review Essay

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For my concert report, I attended “Rigoletto” at the Long Center for the Performing Arts. I attended the one on Thursday, November 14th, at 7:30. We had at least briefly discussed Rigoletto in class so I understood the basis of the plot that goes on during the opera before attending. However, I still conducted a little bit of background research to discover a couple more interesting things about the opera itself. Without further ado, I will go ahead and get right into my report!

Before I get into the musical findings of the concert I wanted to talk a little about the sights and experiences I had. I had never really seen or attended an opera before, so I thought it was cool how there was sort of a “pit” in front of the stage where the orchestra played. The Long Center for the Performing Arts was a beautiful building as I was highly impressed with the architecture, especially the skyline deck located right outside of the building. Finally, I thought it was really neat to see how passionate some people were about the performance, beforehand people were genuinely excited to be there, and most of the seats filled up. Of course, the applause at the end was something that I can still picture and hear in my head.

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(Historical Context of a piece performed)

The period when “Rigoletto” was composed is widely known as the Romantic Era in music. It is defined as a self-conscious break from the ideals of the Enlightenment. This era in music grew out of the social and political upheavals that occurred after the French Revolution in the late 1700s. The slogan of the French Revolution, “Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity” inspired the hopes and visions of the vast amount of artists. They emphasized intense emotional expression and were highly individualistic. These new ideals of the artists and poets directly impacted music, as did the Industrial Revolution, which strongly influenced the sounds of Romantic Music. Orchestration became an art in itself, and composers now had broad palettes that they used to create certain atmospheres and evoke emotional responses. Before the age of recording, catchy excerpts from operas were marked in arrangements, which allowed the music to saturate its culture, becoming popular in economic and social senses. These profound impacts on music can be seen in “La donna è mobile”, an aria during Act 3 of Rigoletto. The composer of the piece, Giuseppe Verdi, is best known for his operas that capture the spirit of Romantic drama and passion. In “La donna è mobile” (Woman is fickle) each character presents a different point of view. The Duke woos Maddalena in a lovely bel canto-style melody. Gilda is heartbroken, and she laments her lost love (The Duke), while Rigoletto swears vengeance for his daughter. However, Gilda sacrifices herself for the man she loves, and Rigoletto’s plan to murder the Duke is foiled. When he believes he is disposing of a sack with the Duke’s body inside, it is the body of his daughter. As highlighted earlier, this piece uses a bel canto style melody that was developed during the Romantic era, which is defined by florid melodic lines delivered by voices of great agility and purity of tone. Pieces in opera such as La Donna è mobile rose to the top through catchy tunes or melodies, and by connecting to the social aspirations of the audiences or providing emotional reinforcement to political messages.

(Musical Analysis of 3 pieces)

The first piece that I will be describing is the “Prelude” (Preludio), which is the very first thing the audience gets to hear at the start of the opera. The prelude foreshadows everything that Rigoletto is going to be. It creates a dark, ominous mood that has a profound impact on everyone listening. The solo trumpet plays a repeated C while the brass plays a clanging chord, which foreshadows the curse that Monterone will place on Rigoletto and the Duke. We will hear this chord over and over throughout the opera, as this curse haunts Rigoletto. The entire orchestral prelude is based on the theme of the curse, which starts quiet and gradually builds in intensity until it bursts into a fervent outcry by the entire orchestra. The outcry ends in repeated drum rolls that alternate with brass, growing in volume only to come to a dark conclusion. In contrast, the next thing the audience hears is “party music”, which paints a picture of the lustful Duke’s court. (Questa O Quella)

Next, we stumble upon a piece called “Cortigiani, vil razza dannata”, an aria for baritone. This aria traces the emotional thoughts that Rigoletto has undergone since he learned of his daughter, Gilda, being kidnapped. He’s angry, sad, and most importantly, powerless as he begs for his daughter’s release. The repetitive notes in the string portray Rigoletto’s distress, and they also give us tumbling melodic lines that contrast against his syncopated notes, which illustrates to the audience his growing anger. As the strings create tension, Rigoletto sings slowly, becoming aware now that the courtiers stand against him. He gathers speed and power as he continuously begs Marullo to take commiseration with him. Rigoletto then changes key from minor to major, as he proceeds through his torture and makes a persuasive plea for his daughter to be released.

Finally, the last piece we will be discussing was my favorite one from the entire opera. Not surprisingly, this piece titled “La donna è mobile”, is the most popular piece of music to come out of Rigoletto. We touched on the historical background of the piece earlier, but now we can get more into its musical techniques. The aria features a solo tenor who is accompanied by an orchestra. The tenor sings a soaring melody, and the piece is in triple meter. It is made up of two strophes, each containing a ritornello. The ritornello that repeats itself throughout the piece serves as a transition to the next scene of the opera that introduces more characters. Following the aria is a quartet that features four singers and dialogue between all of the characters involved. They exchange phrases in allegro tempo, and sometimes they even speak at the same time, overlapping one another.

(Closing facts about the piece)

The Italian libretto was written by Francesco Maria Piave based on the play Le Roi Amuse by Victor Hugo. Rigoletto premiered on March 11, 1851, in a sold-out venue. It was considered a success, and the famous “La donna e mobile” gained rapid popularity. The orchestra features 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 bassoons, 2 clarinets, 2 trumpets, 4 horns, 3 trombones, cimbasso, timpani, strings, bass drum, and cymbals. I won’t name off the entire cast but I will go through some of the main characters...Michael Chioldi (Rigoletto), Kang Wang (Duke of Mantua), Madison Leonard (Gilda), and Peter Volpe (Sparafucile).

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Opera Concert Review Essay. (2024, February 29). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 19, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/opera-concert-review-essay/
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