Rigoletto staged by the Cairo Opera Company in 2008 (Photo: courtesy of Abdalla Saad)
Directed by Abdalla Saad, Verdi's opera Rigoletto will be staged at the Cairo Opera House on three consecutive evenings, between 2 and 4 February.
In Egypt, opera Rigoletto has a significant history. Rigoletto was the first opera performed at the opening of the Khedivial Opera House on 1 November 1869. In modern history Rigolleto has been staged several times at the new Cairo Opera House where the last performance took place in 2008. It now returns to the Cairo Opera House with a new scenography designed by Mahmoud Haggag.
Composed in forty days in 1851, Rigoletto is Verdi's outburst of creative musical energy, inspired by Victor Hugo’s Le roi s’amuse (The king’s amusement/"The King Has Fun"), a play which proved very troublesome to authorities in France.
Back in 1850, Verdi wrote a letter to his librettist, Francisco Maria Piave: “I have in mind a subject that would be one of the greatest creations of the modern theater if the police will only allow it. Who knows? Have a try! The subject is grand, immense and there’s a character in it who is one of the greatest creations that the theater of all countries and all times can boast. The subject is Le roi s’amuse and the character I’m speaking about is Triboulet."
In the original play the villain is a king, Francis I of France, who falls in love with Blanche, the daughter of a court jester. Hugo uses the jester to criticise the contemporary society and the king. Both the play's topic as well as the final scene where a corpse is on the stage in a sack, was called "obsene" at the time, and led to a ban of the play in France.
It took Verdi a lot of effort to have his librettist Piave follow components of Hugo's play. Finally, the opera premiered in Italy in 1851. Verdi insisted on keeping the grotesque jester, changing his name to Rigoletto. Though music afficionados who were not used to seeing repulsive looking people as main characters did not like the idea, Verdi replied to them saying: "To me there is something really fine in representing on stage this character, outwardly so ugly and ridiculous, inwardly so impassioned and full of love," Verdi wrote.
The opera will be performed by the soloists of the Cairo Opera Company and guest singers. The Cairo Opera Orchestra will be conducted by David Crescenzi. The opera will have English and Arabic translations screened.
2, 3, and 4 February, at 8pm
Main hall of the Cairo Opera House, Zamalek, Cairo
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