Rigoletto Teaching Resources

Music Key Stage 4

Rigoletto Music Key Stage 4

Lesson one

Theme/ Activity headline: Creating Characters

Curriculum attainment targets: Engage actively in the process of music study and develop performing skills individually and in groups to communicate

Starter activity

Creating Characters

Play an 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

Play a musical excerpt for each of the main characters in the opera. (Reduce the number of characters if necessary.)

Examples could be:

  • Rigoletto: ‘Cortigiani, vil razza dannata’ (Act lll)
  • Duke of Mantua: ‘donna e mobile’ (Act lll)
  • Gilda: her first aria ‘Caro nome’
  • Sparafucile: ‘Quel vecchio maledivami’ (Act l)
  • Maddalena: ‘Bella figlia dell’amore’ (Act lV)

After each excerpt, create a poster of descriptive words for each character. When discussing each character, think about the ways in which the words and the music bring that character to life.

Now, whilst re-visiting the excerpts, learn a very short musical motif or pattern for each of the characters (this could just be three or four notes for example.) These ideas can be sung or played on tuned percussion or other instruments. At the same time, decide on a symbol or image for each of the characters and put these on separate cards/ pieces of paper.

Lead a musical game whereby the images/symbols related to each character are held up in turn and learners have to play the correct musical motif associated with this character.


Think of three different kinds of characters- preferably characters which are different from those in Rigoletto. Find inspiration from the creative arts- novels or films for instance. Compose three of your own short musical motifs to go with them. These motifs could be sung or played on any other instruments. Memorise them, notate them and/ or record them if possible.

Lesson two

Theme/ Activity headline: The Mind as a Prison

Curriculum attainment targets: Develop composing skills to organise musical ideas and make use of appropriate resources and broaden musical experience and interests, develop imagination and foster creativity

Starter activity

The Mind as a Prison

Individually, ask learners to draw a stage set which could evoke the idea of restricted space, a prison, or a place where history repeats itself.

Wander around the room looking at all the drawings. Are there recurring themes in the drawings? Discuss similarities and differences and how you would interpret these drawings for the stage.

Main activity

Listen to the Prelude ‘curse theme’ and show it on the score if possible. The prelude is dark, moody and tragic, setting the scene for the entire opera. A solo trumpet plays a repeated C and the brass play an ominous chord. As a whole class, play along with the curse theme using tuned percussion or other instruments. Discuss the atmosphere and the musical features that add to it.

The curse chord returns over and over again throughout the opera. In groups, look at the score. Can anyone find another version of the curse theme?

Think back to the drawings from the starter activity. 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.

In groups, compose a curse theme using a variety of instruments including tuned or non-tuned percussion. Use symbols or graphic scores to record ideas.


Compose one line of melody, or a repeating riff that could represent Rigoletto’s recapitulating mind. This could be sung or played on any other instruments. Memorise it, notate it and/ or record if possible. These will be revisited for a starter activity.

Lesson three

Theme/ Activity headline: The Art of Seduction

Curriculum attainment targets: Develop knowledge, understanding and skills needed to communicate effectively as musicians and develop as effective and independent learners with enquiring minds

Starter activity

The Art of Seduction

In groups, discuss the art of seduction.

Discuss seduction in a Shakespearen context thinking about the different ways in which a man may have won the affections of a woman.

Discuss ideas as a whole class and also think about the relevance of Shakespeare in relation to Rigoletto, and his style of singing and expressing himself. Encourage the use of technical language.

Main activity

Listen to ‘donna e mobile’, the Duke of Mantua’s Act lll aria, whilst moving freely round the room, dancing, and/or humming.

In groups, study the libretto and a translation of the words. Discuss:

  • the meaning of the words
  • the meaning behind the words
  • the rhythm of the words
  • the way the music communicates meaning and paints a vivid picture of The Duke of Mantua

In pairs, using pens, pencils, magazines or other images, create a picture of The Duke of Mantua trying to seduce Maddalena. Add some descriptions and technical language to the images, (as part of the image or beneath the image,) to point out some of the musical features that the Duke uses as part of his seduction.

Display some ideas to prompt learners thinking:

  • mood and atmosphere of the music
  • confident or timid?
  • instrumentation
  • rhythm and tempo
  • articulation
  • structure
  • Explain pictures and descriptions to the rest of the class.


Find an example of a popular song which is up-beat, confident and about love or attracting a partner. Try and learn one of the parts from this chosen song- a part that embodies the confidence of the singer. It could be a bass line, a chord progression, a melody, riff or backing vocal part. Write two sentences to describe this part and the process of learning it.

Lesson four

Theme/ Activity headline: All Singing Together?

Curriculum attainment targets: Reflect upon and evaluate their own and others’ music

Starter activity

All Singing Together

Revisit the small motifs that learners created as part of an extension activity to portray Rigoletto’s recapitulating mind.

Listen to them one by one and then see if you can join any of them together, playing them simultaneously. Do any of them fit together in interesting ways? How many layers can you create, layering motif upon motif, and repeating them multiple times to create a mesmeric effect?

Main activity

Listen again to all of (or an excerpt from) ‘Bell figlia dell’amore’ (Act lll). Reflect on how the artwork from the starter activity links 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 A Capella music with four contrasting, interweaving vocal parts. Learners can sing with or without words. Scaffold this activity according to individual learner needs, modelling examples. Pieces could be ‘loop-based’- where each singer sings a small motif or pattern and repeats this over and over.

Perform to the whole class and practise positive, specific and useful feedback techniques with one another. Think about one way in which you could improve your practical skills for next time? Share this with the person next to you.


Find a ‘loop-based’ piece of music or song to listen to.

Using the idea of a ‘loop-based’ piece of music, create 4 different short loops/ musical patterns. These could be just three or four notes in length. Will they fit together? See if you can teach the loops to a group of friends or family and see if they fit together in an interesting/ pleasing way. Notate them in some way and/or record if possible.

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

You might also like

Teaching resources
Rigoletto Teaching Resources
Learning & Engagement
Bring opera to life in the classroom with our teaching resou…
Discover opera and be part of extraordinary artistic experie…
Our flagship summer programme of world class opera
Glyndebourne Shop
Our online shop offers a great selection of exclusive and locally sourced products. Every purchase supports our work.
Become a Member
Enjoy priority booking for the Festival. Find out how you can join as an Associate Member
Support us
Glyndebourne is a charity and the Festival receives no public subsidy. We rely on generous supporters who are passionate about opera.