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Thoughts on Rigoletto

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Abstract

The author discusses the traditional interpretations of the principal dramatis personae in Verdi’s Rigoletto, suggesting that the opera expresses the composer’s unconscious but highly perceptive and intuitive exploration of: (i) paranoid and perverse father–daughter oedipal dynamics as enacted between Rigoletto and Gilda; (ii) a folie-à-deux sado-masochistic relationship between Rigoletto and the Duke; (iii) the avoidance of conscious guilt and responsibility for Rigoletto’s part in the tragedy through the rejection of insight achieved via massive projection, an addiction to mania, and perversion. In this respect Rigoletto is compared with King Lear. Some technical aspects of Verdi’s compositional style employed to portray the contrasting characters of the protagonists are analysed. The paper also touches on Verdi’s own possible unconscious (as well as conscious) investment in this particular opera, noting similarities between Verdi’s portrait of the tragic, hunchback jester and his own self-depiction. The author notes similarities and contrasts between his analysis of the opera and recent papers byHudson (1992),Tarnopolsky (1995)andBergstein (2003)on the same subject.

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