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Verdi's Rigoletto – Aria Code Episode 7

First Love, Wrong Love

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You’ve probably been there: in love for the first time and enchanted by the very sound of your sweetheart’s name.

The problem for Gilda in Verdi’s Rigoletto is that her new love isn’t who he says he is. The worst will come (it’s opera), but for a few brief moments in Act I, Gilda’s innocence sweeps you away. She’s young and head over heels and obsessing over the “caro nome,” the “dear name” of her new love.

In this episode, host Rhiannon Giddens and her guests consider the dizzying thrill of your first love, Verdi’s brilliant powers of orchestration and why Gilda’s infatuation rings so true even today. You’ll hear soprano Nadine Sierra reminisce about her own formative experiences and then fall in love with the so-called “Gualtier Maldè” onstage at the Metropolitan Opera.

The Guests

Before Nadine Sierra could be accurately described as one of the most talented young artists in opera, she was a self-described “opera nerd.” She had a protective family – like Gilda – but that couldn’t stop her from secretly riding to high school in her boyfriend’s car.

Paul Thomason has combined his lifelong passion for music, colorful storytelling skills and a knack for mid-century slang to become one of the most insightful writers and lecturers on opera. He’s written for far too many publications to list.

Carl Pickhardt is a psychologist and author who has spent decades helping parents and children navigate the challenges of adolescence. His most recent book is titled Who Stole My Child? Parenting Through the Four Stages of Adolescence.


Aria Code is a new podcast that pulls back the curtain on some of the most famous arias in opera history, with insight from the biggest voices of our time, including Plácido Domingo, Diana Damrau, Sondra Radvanovsky, and many others.

Each episode dives into one aria — a feature for a single singer — and explores how and why these brief musical moments have imprinted themselves in our collective consciousness and what it takes to stand on the Met stage and sing them.

Hosted by Grammy Award-winner and MacArthur “Genius” Fellow Rhiannon Giddens, Aria Code is produced by WQXR in partnership with The Metropolitan Opera. The team includes Merrin Lazyan, Brendan Francis Newnam, Matt Boynton, Ricardo Quiñones, Ania Grzesik, Khrista Rypl and Matt Abramovitz. Original music by Hannis Brown.

  • Verdi's Rigoletto – Aria Code Episode 7

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