In the Middle Ages, people
believed that a hunchback's hump was caused by demons trapped inside the body,
trying to push their way out. Rigoletto certainly is plagued by demons but in
this production they manifest themselves in a different form. Claus Guth, an
implacably rigorous director who strips every work he stages back to its
essentials, has interiorised the hero’s deformity, portraying it as a social “a
chip on the shoulder” rather than a hump as a means of conveying this powerful
drama in all its psychological pertinence.
Photographer Éléna Bauer has captured the seething energy of a show in the construction process.
Since entire story is
viewed from the perspective of the curse afflicting the principal character,
Claus Guth has created a production in which the spectator sees the drama
through the eyes of an ageing and broken-spirited Rigoletto reliving the tragic
events that led to his daughter’s death and his own destruction.
His vision is built around
the father-daughter relationship. Seized with panic at the idea of losing
Gilda, Rigoletti continues to treat her as a little girl, as if trying to stop
her from growing up. Gilda’s response is to conceal her growing desire for a
stranger who turns out to be the Duke. However, this promise of escape is an
illusion: like her father, the Duke projects his own fantasies onto her and she
exchanges one prison for another.
This imprisonment is
clearly audible in the music: Gilda’s melodic lines are dependent on those of
Rigoletto and the Duke. It is only in the third act that she begins to sing the
broad, freely soaring phrases conveying her own personality. By then it is too
late: when she finally gains her emancipation, it is only to sacrifice herself
in order to save the Duke.
Rigoletto marks an aesthetic turning point in Verdi’s career: the composer here
constantly subjects musical form to the demands of theatrical verisimilitude.
At the end of his life, after Falstaff,
Verdi was honoured in Rome as “the greatest musician of his time”. His response
was bitingly dismissive: “Forget the great musician, I am a man of the
Read more about the
dramaturgy of Rigoletto in the