Quartetto variato is Giuseppe Cappelli’s operatic fantasy for E-flat clarinet and piano based on Verdi’s (1813-1901) quartet from Act III of Rigoletto. Adapted from Victor Hugo’s (1802-1885) Le Roi S’amuse, the three-act lyric opera was set to a libretto by Franceso Maria Piave (1810-1876). Rigoletto’s first performance took place on March 11, 1851, at the Teatro La Fenice in Venice.
The opera, set in 16th-century Mantua, Italy, is the story of the court clown, Rigoletto, who is in service to the Duke of Mantua, a known womanizer. Act I opens with a party at the home of the Duke, who makes flirtatious advances towards the daughter of his guest, Count Monterone. Rigoletto’s mocking infuriates the Count, who swears a curse will befall him. This makes Rigoletto fearful, because unbeknownst to anyone, he has a daughter, Gilda. When Rigoletto finds out that his daughter has succumbed to the passes of the Duke, he hires Sparafucile, a tavern owner, to kill him. The famous quartet from which Cappelli wrote this variation occurs in Act III, where Verdi set the stage at Sparafucile’s tavern. Inside, the Duke, who has been lured there by Sparafucile’s sister, Maddalena, swears his love for her. The Duke is unaware that Rigoletto and Gilda are watching from outside. When Rigoletto feels his daughter has seen enough, he takes her home and makes her dress as a boy to safeguard her.
Even though Sparafucile has received half of Rigoletto’s money to kill the Duke, Maddalena has become fascinated with the Duke and pleads for his life. They strike a deal that the first man to enter the tavern will be Sparafucile’s victim. Drawn to the place where she believes her lover is, Gilda goes to the tavern and hears the siblings plotting. Determined to save the Duke, Gilda sacrifices herself and enters the tavern. There is a cry and then silence. Sparafucile puts Gilda’s body in a bag and takes it to Rigoletto to receive the rest of his payment. As Rigoletto prepares to toss the bag in the river, he hears the Duke singing La donna è mobile and realizes he has been duped. He opens the bag to see the body of his dying daughter. Count Monterone’s curse has been fulfilled.
Quartetto variato begins with music from the orchestral tutti of Act III, Scene 1, La donna è mobile, the opera?s most famous aria, sung by the Duke. At measure 11, the E-flat clarinet presents the Duke’s aria, Bella figlia dell’amor, which, in the opera, occurs at the Andante, half way through No. 12, marked Quartetto. Cappelli skillfully assigns the vocal lines of Verdi’s quartet to the E-flat clarinet and inner voices of the piano. For instance, in measures 28-34, the clarinet represents Gilda’s voice, while the piano embodies Magdalene’s role in measures 27-31. Rigoletto’s voice appears in the piano at measure 33, with Magdalene appearing again at measure 34. All the voices are together at measure 35, with the role of the Duke (played by the clarinet) taking over in measure 36. In measure 44, the clarinet and piano join forces to perform the famous quartet. A return to the Duke’s La donna è mobile, at the Allegretto ends the main part of the work. Cappelli borrows music of the violin solo from Verdi’s introduction to No. 12 before concluding the piece with original music at the Allegretto comodo (m. 96).
Tempo markings are taken from the original 1914 score (Ricordi, Milan), now published by Dover, and are for reference only. Cappelli’s composition is void of tempo indications.
Score and Parts Included: Eb Clarinet