I remarked in another thread that I was always prejudiced against Rigoletto because of the story. Funny thing is I recently had an experience the exact opposite to yours. Normally I always follow the libretto but recently I tried listening to it without it, just concentrating on the music and I began to appreciate the beauty of the music more. Nonetheless I find in most cases following the libretto greatly enhances the experience.I saw Rigoletto 20 years ago before I was into men's voices and was sort of ho hum about it even though the singers were fine. I always liked Caro Nome but that was about it. I was given a lp boxed set a year ago and it sort of languished at the back of the pile until I got my new turntable and decided to try it. I am glad I waited as doing the contests has made me appreciate male voices so much more. Now I really love Rigoletto ( I have the one with the gorgeous voiced Milnes, Pavarotti and Sutherland). Not just the singing but the orchestration is so very beautiful. The story doesn't appeal to me so much but the music is so gorgeous it definitely has become a favorite of mine. The weaving over the voices in the first scene is exquisite and exciting and that duet between father and daughter is so gloriously beautiful! It also helped a lot that I have started following along with a libretto of late when I listened to music since I have them with lp sets. Have you changed your mind about an opera over the years?
Verdi for me was an acquired taste but I've gradually become a passionate fan and he's now my favorite opera composer. But for a long time I was cool to Falstaff. Because of its reputation I was frustrated by my inability to appreciate it. I even bought the Dover score hoping following the score would help me appreciate it more. Unfortunately the score only gives the Italian text. Then recently I listened again to the Karajan-Gobbi recording and suddenly something ignited in me. This time I was following the libretto not the score. Falstaff is one opera where you really need to follow the words. Verdi follows every twist and turn of the text and the music by itself often lacks continuity.
La Traviata has also been growing on me. The sentimental story has always appealed to me less than more garish melodramas like Il Trovatore and La Forza.