Rigoletto24

Artists: Susanne Kudielka and Kaspar Wimberley
Interactive performance event / Digital media

Rigoletto24 will be premiered for the opening of the new library in Stuttgart on the 22nd and 23rd of October. More information can be found on our project website: www.rigoletto24.com (English version coming soon)

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‘Oh how all my life has been changed in a day’
(Rigoletto, Act II, N. 10)

24 hours to rewrite Rigoletto.

Welcome to our Lanparty. A series of computers are networked together, on which you are able to make live changes to a modern translation of the original Libretto by Francesco Maria Piave. A pianist continuously plays Verdi’s composition for Rigoletto. The text becomes fluid and changeable in an exercise of collaborative creation.

After 24 hours eleven opera singers will perform the new text as a karaoke, using the original score composed by Giuseppi Verdi.

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Contextual Framework
Conceptual Framework
The Event
The Space
Supporting Imagery

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Contextual Framework Main menu ↑

Victor Hugo’s play Le Roi S’amuse provided the starting point for Rigoletto, a new opera composed by Verdi and written by Piave in 1851. Le Roi S’amuse was banned in 1832 after only one performance and Rigoletto went on to face similar difficulties with La Censura, a thought police who judged the political, religious and moral implications of any proposed event, to avoid the introduction of liberal or rebellious ideas following an uprising in 1848 against Austrian and Papal control.

By the time Rigoletto was premiered the script had been chopped, changed and completely rewritten three times. Piave’s first draft of Rigoletto was deemed ‘disgustingly immoral and obscenely trivial’ and rejected by La Censura and the Venetian Police. A second draft was accepted by the police but rejected by Verdi on the grounds of artistic credibility and integrity. A compromise, that changed the names and the setting of the opera and removed one of the objectionable scenes, was finally accepted.

Even after completion the script was subject to change. Following the sale of the score and script to Ricordi, a variety of versions were produced to suit different censorship bodies and different tastes. The play was available in four versions, Rigoletto, Viscardello, Lionello and Claradi Perth, each with different characters and settings. You could even order a happy or a sad ending.

Despite international success Rigoletto continued to cause controversy. One reviewer would write that Rigoletto “will send the audience away from the theatre empty and disgusted at such a horrendous and nauseating spectacle.” In Bergamo (1851) the play had to be brought to an early end due to crowd disturbances. Act 3 of Luisa Miller concluded the evening’s entertainment. As late as the 1920’s women in the boxes at the Metropolitan Opera turned their seats around to protest following the rape of Gilda. Almost all of the criticism was aimed at the text, not the music.

Rigoletto24 is also a commentary on the strained relationship between Piave and Verdi, who often demanded lengthy changes to the script and adapted stage directions or passages, often without consent or negotiation, that he thought might disrupt the dramatic flow or lead to inconsistencies. He was, to some extent, censoring and controlling the creative work of the poet Piave, who was stuck in the middle having to please both Verdi and the censors. Verdi had originally chosen the subject matter, but Piave would get the brunt of the criticism.

It is this study into the historical context and turn of events specific to the making of Rigoletto that provided the starting point for our further investigations.

Today the issue of censorship in Western Europe appears at first sight less clear-cut, although recent events such as the introduction of terrorism acts have provided new instances of direct governmental censorship. Despite our so called ‘freedom of speech’ and the ‘right to protest’, we are still susceptible to media influence, marketing agendas or political rhetoric. Can new communicative platforms emerge that avoid these forms of censorship?

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Conceptual Framework Main menu ↑

‘Rigoletto24, all my life has been changed in a day’, explores the creation of art and culture as a collaborative or collective act. Who or what is in control? Is this an act of democracy? How do we value a collaborative work of art, as opposed to an individual artistic vision?

This is a socio-cultural experiment exploring how new modes of communication, and the way in which we process information, have changed. A computer literate cut-and-paste generation tends to sample, reorganise and piece together textual information in bite-sized chunks. Online platforms used to carry this information, such as Wikipedia, have become more fluid, interactive and subject to change. The flow of digital information avoids direct control. Traditional notions of authorship or ownership have been removed and replaced with a new concept of collective control giving every individual the power to introduce and monitor change.

Can we repossess a work of art? Are we recapturing or releasing Rigoletto from the state censorship, artistic constraints and economic exploitation it endured, taking collective control and exploring the possibilities this freedom might allow? Or do individual audience members censor the text for themselves, replacing one form of censorship for another? Is the human being biologically and culturally conditioned to censor information? A form of self-censorship, manifesting itself in how we subconsciously piece things together, fill in the gaps, finish the endings; and in what we choose to remember, forget, fear or hope for.

Creating a work of art is often host to a number of external and internal influences. This form of censorship begins with the consideration of the artwork, with the pressure to conform, succeed, survive or appease. Piave and Verdi also admitted to preconditioning. Can Rigoletto24 offer a space in which creation can temporarily regain artistic integrity? Or does the collaborative nature of this creation serve as a problematic to this ideal?

The collective responsibility our audience takes for the final performance also explores one of the central themes in the opera itself; that our actions and utterances can have consequences. Rigoletto never fully accepts any form of responsibility for the part he played in his daughter’s rape and eventual murder, for the repercussions of his actions, and how these actions spurned those of others. Playing on this thematic each participant in Rigoletto24 everybody is responsible for the completed text, while joining a trail of thought that will influence future ‘players’, as layer upon layer of changes are introduced to the script.

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The Event Main menu ↑

‘But one thing remains now, a task to accomplish, and then we depart from this place of disaster. Oh how all my life has been changed in a day’
(Rigoletto, Act II, N. 10,)

24 hours to rewrite Rigoletto.

For the course of 24 hours the general public are invited to the performance space, where a series of computers are networked together. Each computer offers the chance to make live changes to a modern translation of the original Libretto. The text becomes fluid and changeable in an exercise of collaborative creation.

Our audience are free to play an active role in the experiment, or to stand back and observe these ‘performers’ and consider the cultural implications of this scenario. All of the participants are actively and physically engaged with one another, the space, and the act that is taking place there.

The relationship between the music and the text is being considered. Are the ‘writers’, seated around a pianist playing a grand piano, continuing to serve the music, a changing text written to a constant score? Or has the music been reduced to background information, demanding a lesser degree of importance? The focus of the opera has certainly shifted towards the act of writing and the role of the text within the artistic process but is the music affecting the rhythms with which we type out our new text?

We will be working together with a computer programming and networking specialist to develop the software for the event and offer technical support during the 24 hours we remain open to the public. The programme will work in a similar way to Google Documents or online networks in which a user can update small sections of a given text. Changes are then automatically downloaded onto other computers on the network.

Karaoke

Following a period of rehearsals to familiarise themselves with Verdi’s composition and experiment singing alternative texts to the same score, eleven opera singers will perform the world premiere of Rigoletto24 as a karaoke, in everyday clothing, to the original score composed by Giuseppi Verdi played on a grand piano.

To use an adaptation of karaoke for the final presentation, places the work once more within a ‘popular’ form of entertainment, continues our exploration into the issue of ownership, and playfully touches on the sheer popularity and catchy sing-along nature of Verdi’s score. In 1851 lead singers were asked not to whistle the tune to La donna è mobile in the bathroom before the premiere had taken place.

We are aware that opera singers might find it difficult singing the new libretto, and that it would be technically possible for a computer to ‚sing’ this text without any problems. But our final concluding event is not about producing a polished orchestrated performance of Rigoletto24. We can’t, and don’t want to do this.

Although the social phenomenon that we are investigating has a lot to do with computers and technology, it also has a lot to do with people and humanity. It seems fitting therefore to use karaoke for the final event. A karaoke evening doesn’t always sound very pleasant, at times quite the contrary! But for all of its misgivings, it is very human. In both karaoke and Rigoletto24 we might find ourselves stumbling over the text.

Many narratives and constellations within the original Rigoletto may no longer ‚function’, but we might discover new and exciting dynamics within the text, emerging from our collective and interactive process. It will not be perfect. It will function in a completely differently way. It will be human....

The Space Main menu ↑

This information is not yet available in English. Please let us know if you would like any additional information regarding the scenographic elements or technical requirements for the event.

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Supporting Imagery Main menu ↑

6-raumgestaltung-erste-teil.jpg
fig. 1. 3D sketch for Rigoletto24 – Rewriting Rogoletto

8-raumgestaltung-finale.jpg
fig. 2. 3D sketch for Rigoletto24 – Karaoke evening

3-lanparty2.jpg
fig. 3. Lanparty

31-lanparty.jpg
fig. 4. Lanparty

2-licht-inspiration-malerei-von-sophie-hammarstrom.jpg
fig. 5. A painting by Sophie Hammarström

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