The second act of Rigoletto ends with perhaps the most furious music in all opera. The hunchback jester’s daughter, Gilda, has just been raped by the Duke whom she had fallen in love with thinking he was a poor student until reality intruded with awful suddenness. And worse, she still loves him. The Duke having had his way with her is no longer interested in her and has let her go. She rushes to her father and and confesses the grim details. At this point the elderly Count Monterone appears on his way to execution. His daughter too had been seduced (perhaps too gentle a word) by the Duke. Monterone had cursed the Duke, and also Rigoletto, to no avail save a death sentence. Rigoletto vows to realize the curse while his daughter asks him to forgive her rapist. She’s a teenager.
The lyrics to this duet with and English translation are below as is the last page of the vocal score. Almost nobody sings the duet the way Verdi wrote it. It typically ends with a high note either sung in unison or in succession.
When Giuseppe Sinopoli recorded the opera he stuck to Verdi’s score. Renato Burson and Edita Gruberova were the soloists. Bruson Gruberova Vendetta duet
This version of the duet is from a 1951 Met performance. The incomparable Leonard Warren and Hilde Gueden are the performers. The ending is high note followed by second high note. The conductor is Alberto Erede. The soprano was a frequent guest at the Met during the 50s. She sang 138 performances at the house between 1951 and 1960. Warren Gueden Vendetta duet
When Warren made a studio recording he used an ending different from what he did at the Met. The piece ends with both participants singing together. Warren hits a high A flat instead of the A flat below middle C called for by the score. The soprano is Erner Berger and the conductor is Renato Cellini. Warren Berger Cellini Vendetta duet
Robert Merrill sang Rigoletto 56 times at the Met. This excerpt from a 1964 performance shows a beautiful voice coupled to a short top. The high notes demanded by Verdi’s great baritone roles always gave him trouble. The soprano is Roberta Peters. Fausto Cleva leads a storm the ramparts Met orchestra which frequently went to sleep during the middle part of the last century. His conducting is the best shown on this page. Merrill Peter Cleva Vendetta duet
The last example of this duet comes from a 1961 performance at Buenos’ Aires’ Teatro Colon. Cornell Macneil was at the stage of his career when his high notes were more than stupendous. He pushed them so hard that even though his career lasted a long time his volcanic high Gs and A flats receded to the merely very good. The soprano on this recording is Leyla Gencer. The conductor Argeo Quadri could have used a double dose of Nodoz and three cups of espresso from Il Professore in Napoli. I suspect Macneil’s high A Flat is still lurking in some remote location of the Colon. Macneil Gencer Quadri Vendetta duet
What this duet needs for full realization are soloists who can project the visceral emotions inserted into this duet along with a conductor who understands excitement and who can communicate this excitement to his players.
Sì, vendetta, tremenda vendetta
di quest’anima è solo desio.
Di punirti già l’ora s’affretta,
che fatale per te suonerà.
Come fulmin scagliato da Dio,
te colpire il buffone saprà.
GILDA (fra sé)
Yes, vengeance, terrible vengeance
is all that my heart desires.
The hour of your punishment hastens on, that hour which will be your last.
Like a thunderbolt from the hand of God, the jester’s revenge shall strike you down.
GILDA (to herself)
Come fulmin scagliato, ecc. GILDA
(Escono dal mezzo.)
Like a thunderbolt, etc.
GILDA Forgive him, etc.