Rigoletto is a hunchback jester in the court of the Duke of Mantua, who wins favour with his patron by ridiculing the courtiers. Without knowing her identity, the Duke develops a passion for Rigoletto's daughter, Gilda. Conspiracy abounds, and soon Rigoletto is plotting the assassination of the Duke. But this is the blackest of tragedies, and ultimately it is his own daughter who is murdered.
Also known as Tokyo Bunka Kaikan, this important arts venue opened in 1961 to provide a centre for opera and ballet performance in the city. A striking example of modern brutalist architecture, it possesses a Main Hall (seating an audience of 2,303) and a Recital Hall (seating 649) which is used for recitals and chamber music. There is also a restaurant, café, florist, gift shop and Music Library. Tokyo Bunka Kaikan enjoys hosting both domestic performers and renowned international groups.
It's not obvious which passage Patchett has in mind. Possibly she means the first appearance of Gilda, which comes in the first act:
Or this darker duet at the end of the second act:
Georg Friedrich Händel (1685-1759) was a Prussian-born composer who moved to England in 1712. He was a prolific composer whose works include 120 cantatas, trios and duets, 42 operas and 29 oratorios. Amongst his best known compositions are the collection of orchestral movements known as the The Water Music, the anthem Zadok the Priest and the oratorio Messiah.
Handel's opera Alcina was first performed in 1735 at the Covent Garden Theatre, London, but it did not immediately enter the operatic repertoire. However, following its revival in Leipzig in 1928, there were several major performances of the opera during the 1960s. In a 1999 production (staged by the Opéra National de Paris and the Lyric Opera of Chicago), the role of Alcina the sorceress was performed by Renée Fleming, who has been described by Ann Patchett as 'the living embodiment of art'.
Lucia di Lammermoor is a tragic opera in three acts by Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848), which is loosely based on The Bride of Lammermoor, a novel by Sir Walter Scott. It was first performed in Naples in 1835.
The opera is particularly well known for its penultimate scene, often known as ‘the mad scene’: Lucia appears distraught and blood-soaked before her assembled wedding guests, having murdered the husband she has just been forced to marry.
La Sonnambula is a "semi-serious" opera by Vincenzo Bellini (1801-1835). It is the story of a young woman who wanders asleep into a stranger's bedroom and is consequently accused of infidelity by her fiancé. Her innocence is only proven when she sleepwalks across a dangerous mill bridge.
Rusalka is a Czech opera by Antonín Dvořák, composed in 1900. The text was written by poet Jaroslav Kvapil (1868–1950), and is based on Czech fairy tales. A Rusalka is a water sprite in Slavic mythology. The opera was first performed in Prague in 1901, and quickly became a huge success. The most popular aria is "Song to the Moon" in Act I:
I am here, waiting
If a human soul should dream of me
May he still remember me on waking
Dear moon, oh, shine for him…
Birds of Paradise, also called Strelitzia, are perennial plants native to South Africa. They are also sometimes called crane flowers.
The canna lily (which is not really a lily) is related to banana plants and strelitzias. In addition to producing large flowering plants, it is also one of the world's richest starch sources. It is found in the tropics, but is easy to grow in most countries with sunny summers.
Lamb’s ear (Stachys byzantina) is native to Turkey, Armenia and Iran. It is cultivated in temperate regions as an ornamental plant.
Emerald fern, or Sprenger's Asparagus, is native to South Africa (and is not really a fern). "Sprenger's Asparagus" refers to Carl Ludwig Sprenger, who made it popular in Europe as an ornamental plant.
Bougainvillea is a tropical vine plant native to South America. Its actual flowers are small and insignificant, but they are surrounded by clusters of showy bracts that make for an arresting visual display. These come in a variety of vivid colours, from magenta to scarlet to yellow. The plant is named after the French explorer Louis de Bougainville.
The 1998 Winter Olympics were held in Nagano, Japan.
It was the first time snowboarding and curling were included in the Olympics.
It is based on the Greek myths relating to Orpheus, the legendary musician of divine origin, and his wife Eurydice, the wood nymph. The myths tell of how Orpheus goes to the Underworld (Hades) to search for his wife following her death. He is given permission to lead her back to the land of the living on condition that he does not turn around and look at her during the journey. Orpheus is unable to keep to this condition, and Eurydice is forced to return to Hades for ever.
In the opera, there is a happy ending when Amore, the god of love, brings Euridice back to life and reunites her with Orfeo.
Listen on Spotify to Trionfi Amore ('May Love Triumph') which is sung at the culmination of Act 3.
The Parthenon is a temple dedicated to the goddess Athena.
Savonnerie was a highly prestigious European maker of knotted-pile carpets, the height of fashion between 1650 and 1685. The carpet manufacturer was established in a former soap factory (French savon) near Paris in 1615, by Pierre DuPont. In 1627, Louis XIII granted DuPont a monopoly, with a patent of eighteen years, to manufacture carpets façon de Turquie ("in the manner of Turkey.") The carpets were made of wool, with some silk in the smaller details, knotted using the Ghiordes or Turkish knot. Until 1768, these carpets remained exclusively the property of the Crown. Savonnerie carpets were among the grandest of French diplomatic gifts.
Shingles is a rash caused by the virus responsible for chicken pox, Varicella zoster.
It affects around one in four people, usually later in life.