Rigoletto Teaching Resources

Music Key Stage 3

Rigoletto Music Key Stage 3

Lesson one

Theme/ Activity headline: ‘A Curse you Cannot Hide From’

Curriculum attainment targets: Play and perform in solo and ensemble contexts, using their voices and playing musical instruments with increasing accuracy, fluency, control and expression

Starter activity

‘A Curse you Cannot Hide From’

The prelude to Rigoletto sets the scene. It’s dark, moody and tragic. Listen to the opening Prelude as the ominous ‘curse theme’ passes from the brass into the full orchestra.

Do not give learners any prior information.

Ask learners to listen carefully, and draw with pencils whilst they listen.

As a whole class, try to describe the drawings in front of you using descriptive words.

Main activity

Play the ‘curse theme’ again and discuss the musical features that Verdi uses to create a dark and ominous atmosphere. Discuss features such as instrumentation, pitch, range, tempo, dynamics … and use technical language if possible.

Can learners use tuned percussion or other musical instruments to join in and play along with the theme?

Use words to describe what kind of Opera this could be, having listened to some of the Prelude, including the ‘curse theme’.

Now in pairs discuss what kind of a ‘curse’ this could be, using your own ideas for a story, and then create your own ‘curse theme’ using tuned percussion, voice and/ or other instruments.

Wander around the groups, listening and offering support.

Perform themes to the class and practise positive, specific and useful feedback.


Write a short paragraph describing a story which involves a curse being placed upon someone. In addition, write a couple of sentences describing what the music or soundtrack would be like for this story. Include ideas about the overall shape of the piece- with a beginning, a middle, and an end.

Lesson two

Theme/ Activity headline: The Angry, Anxious Jester

Curriculum attainment targets: Listen with attention to detail and recall sounds with increasing aural memory

Starter activity

The angry, Anxious jester

Play another excerpt from the Prelude whilst learners enter the room. Provide a collection of cards/ pieces of paper, with both descriptive words and images of the following:

  • a father
  • a daughter
  • a Duke
  • revenge
  • a curse
  • a jester
  • a kidnapping
  • a knife

Tell learners that the plot for Verdi’s Rigoletto contains all of these elements.
In small groups, learners can create their own idea of what the plot may be. Create a ‘storyboard’ using both words and images.

Main activity

Share ideas about what the plot could be before beginning to use high-order questioning to guide learners in the right direction. Ask learners to read through a brief synopsis.

Learners will now focus on the character of Rigoletto. Refrain from influencing learners’ responses to the music in advance. With support, encourage learners to build their own understanding of this character. Listen to an excerpt sung by Rigoletto, such as: ‘Cortigiani, vil razza dannata’ (Act lll)

Encourage learners to sing/ play along as they listen.


  • words/libretto 
  • musical features, including structure
  •  relationship between the words and the music
  • the drama that could be added to a live performance 

In groups, create a character profile of Rigoletto- using words, images and sounds. Guide learners to contemplate Rigoletto’s troubled circumstance as a Jester, who is forced to wear a smile, yet his jokes are riddled with anger and aggression. Explore ideas of being trapped and imprisoned within the confines of one’s own mind.


Create a short melody which could be used to portray a troubled character. Melodies can be sung or played on a melodic instrument, and could be just two or four bars of 4 beats each. 

Scaffold and support this task depending on learner skills. Some learners may need to have a specific set of notes to work with and some rhythmic ideas.

Lesson three

Theme/ Activity headline: The Duke of Mantua and The Art of Seduction

Curriculum attainment targets: Appreciate and understand a wide range of high-quality live and recorded music drawn from different traditions and from great composers and musicians

Starter activity

The Duke of Mantua and The Art of Seduction
Play ‘La donna e mobile’, the Duke’s crowd-pleasing Act III aria, as learners enter the room.

Encourage learners to walk around the space freely- moving/ dancing/ humming/ singing.

Display the synopsis on the wall.

Ask learners to guess which character is singing the song, and what could be happening at this point in the story. Jot down ideas in pairs.

Main activity

Play the aria again and encourage learners to play along and/or sing along with instruments informally. Scaffold this by demonstrating, modelling, simplifying parts and providing specific notes and rhythms to play.

Discuss ideas from the starter activity and then, using high-order questioning, explore the aria in more detail.


  • which character is singing, and how you can tell
  • music features which help to paint a picture of his character
  • the words/libretto and meaning behind the words
  • the relationship between the words and music
  • the way in which this part may be acted on stage
  • Play the aria a few more times whilst learners create a short piece of
  • choreography in groups. Imagine the Duke of Mantua has a group of backing dancers as he tries to seduce Maddalena!

Perform to the rest of the class and practise the art of positive, specific, useful feedback.


Find an example of a popular song which is up-beat, confident and about love or attracting a partner. Thinking about the specific musical features, write down two similarities and two differences between this example and ‘La donna e mobile.’

Lesson four

Theme/ Activity headline: All Singing Together?

Curriculum attainment targets: Improvise and compose music for a range of purposes using the interrelated dimensions of music

Starter activity

All singing together

Play ‘Bell figlia dell’amore’ (Act lV) as learners enter the room and as learners begin the activity. 

Provide each learner with four different (art) materials, a piece of card or paper (small scale is fine) and some glue/ tape. The different materials could be: cotton, thin plastic, a leaf, and some paint. Combine all four of the materials in some way and stick them onto the paper/card.

Main activity

Listen again to all of (or an excerpt from) ‘Bell figlia dell’amore’ (Act lV). How does the artwork from the starter activity link to this piece of music?

In a learner-led fashion, discuss ‘Bell figlia dell’amore’ in more depth, focusing on the four different characters and how these are portrayed through words and music. Decide on four different symbols or images to represent each of the characters as you discuss them.

In groups of four, create a short piece of music with four contrasting, interweaving parts using tuned percussion or other instruments and voice. Two of the learners should play instruments and two of the learners should sing, with or without words. Scaffold this activity according to individual learner needs, modelling examples, and providing simple motifs, specific groups of notes and/or specific rhythms. Pieces could also be ‘loop-based’.


Write a paragraph of prose, describing a social situation involving four people with very different personalities, styles or opinions. How would you develop this idea into an opera? Using magazines, drawing or other sources, create four images to represent the different characters.

Image credits: Rigoletto, Festival 2019, artwork by Shadric Toop

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