The season, day by day

back to calendar

Rigoletto

Giuseppe Verdi 1813-1901

Opera in three acts
Libretto by Francesco Maria Piave based on Victor Hugo's play Le Roi s’amuse (1832)
First performed March 11 1851, Teatro La Fenice, Venice
(premiere of this production: March 19 2017)

Sung in Italian with English & German surtitles
ca. 2 hours 30 minutes, including 1 interval after act 1
an introductory talk, in German, begins in the upstairs foyer 30 minutes before every performance  

Conductor Alexander Prior / Simone Di Felice
Rigoletto Franco Vassallo / Željko Lučić
Gilda Brenda Rae / Sydney Mancasola
Duke of Mantua Yosep Kang / Mario Chang
Sparafucile Kihwan Sim / Daniel Miroslaw
Maddalena Maria Pantiukhova / Katharina Magiera
Giovanna Nina Tarandek
Count Monterone Magnús Baldvinsson
Marullo Iurii Samoilov / Mikołaj Trąbka*
Borsa Ingyu Hwang / Michael McCown
Count Ceprano Iain MacNeil 
Countess Ceprano/Page Member of the Opera Studio

 *Member of the Opera Studio

Act I Courtiers and the Duke of Mantua's hunchback jester Rigoletto amuse themselves. The duke seduces and then abandons women to pass the time. He mocks their husbands. He has not yet concluded his latest adventure with a young woman. Every Sunday, for three months, he has watched her in church. With the help of Rigoletto's stinging tongue the duke humiliates Countess Ceprano in front of her husband. When Rigoletto suggests that cuckolded Count Ceprano be executed, the mood suddenly turns against him. The courtiers demand revenge for Rigoletto's maliciousness. Marullo reveals that the hunchback keeps a secret lover hidden away at home. Count Monterone interrups the party. He intends to be avenged for his daughter, who the duke and his men dishonoured. When Rigoletto mocks the despairing father, Monterone curses the duke and his jester. Rigoletto cannot get Monterone's curse out of his mind. Out on the street Sparafucile, a professional assassin, and his sister Maddalena offer their services. Rigoletto sees his mirror image in the murderer: Sparafucile kills with a dagger, he with his humiliating words. Rigoletto bemoans his fate and tries to justify his actions to himself. He comes home, where his daughter Gilda is locked away from the outside world, looked after by her governess Giovanna. Gilda means everything to her father. She grew up in a convent and only came to live with him three months ago. Gilda longs for life and freedom. Rigoletto avoids answering her questions about her dead mother and his name. Before going out again he orders Giovanna to guard his daugher well. The duke, disguised as a poor student, Gualtier Maldé, forces his way into the room. He proclaims his love for her, which Gilda immediately returns. She is overjoyed. Giovanna hears footsteps, the duke is sent away. Gilda falls into a reverie about her beloved's name. Courtiers break into the house to steal Rigoletto's supposed lover. Rigoletto, his eyes bound, takes part in the crime in the mistaken belief that they are abducting Countess Ceprano. Too late, he realises that he has helped steal his own daughter. (intervalAct II The duke is desolate that his beloved seems to have been stolen from him. When courtiers report that she has been carried away by his men and brought to court, he hurries to her. Rigoletto is looking for his daughter, mocked by the courtiers. When it emerges that she is with the duke, he demands that she be returned to him. He is beside himself with rage, then pleads with the courtiers. Gilda appears and admits to her father that she loves the duke. Rigoletto sees his daughter disgraced and his life destroyed. Rigoletto swears bloody vengeance and intends to leave the city with Gilda, for ever. Act III Gilda loves the duke, despite everything. Rigoletto makes her watch as her beloved, disguised as a soldier, enjoys himself with Maddalena, Sparafucile's sister. Rigoletto orders his daughter to leave the city, dressed as a man, and hires Sparafucile to kill the duke. Thunder clouds gather. Gilda has come back and overhears Maddalena and Sparafucile arguing about whether the duke should be murdered or not. Maddalena feels sorry for him and persuades her brother to kill the first guest who knocks on the door before midnight instead. Gilda enters, sacrificing her life for the duke. Rigoletto comes to collect the body. He is about to dispose of it in triumph when he hears the duke's voice. He opens the sack and finds his dying daughter.

No other Verdi opera drives so breathlessly and purposfully towards its tragic end as Rigoletto. The hunchback court jester Rigoletto, his daughter Gilda and his master, the Duke of Mantua are the protagonists in a tragic story about sick, damaged, driven souls. Rigoletto humiliates people and stirs up trouble amongst them. He keeps Gilda imprisoned in an elaborate world of illusion which allows her no room for development. She is so naive that one exchanged glance with the duke was enough to start her dreaming of what it would feel like to live in love and freedom. She cannot get rid of this feeling. She identifies with deceitful freedom and sacrifices her life to save the duke. Her father loses everything in the end, in a world deserted by gods and morals.

Verdi composed an incredibly taut score, without a single bar that sounds too long or unnecessary. The opera was deemed revolutionary. It offered a brand new spectrum, the boundaries between recitative and aria in dramatic situations vanished, and the two central themes in Verdi's life's work, a father's tragic fate and outcasts, are combined here in an even more vivid and concentrated way