Composed by Giuseppe Verdi
Libretto by Francesco Maria Piave
Premiered in La Fenice, Venice on March 11, 1851
July 31, August 1, 7 and 8 [8pm]
Performed in Italian



*UAO stage debut
+2015 Crescendo participant

The Story

Place: Mantua Italy.

Act I

Scene 1. The Duke of Mantua’s palace.

The Duke boasts to his retainer, Borsa, of his plan to seduce a young woman he has recently seen at Mass. He has discovered where she lives, and every night he sees a mysterious man enter her house. The Duke has not revealed his identity to the woman. Borsa, meanwhile, admires the ladies at the ball, and the Duke is particularly taken with the wife of Count Ceprano. As the Duke flirts with Countess Ceprano and escorts her out of the room, Rigoletto, the Duke’s hunchbacked jester, mocks the Count, who follows them out in a huff. Rigoletto joins them, laughing.

Marullo comes in with news: Rigoletto has a mistress! They plan to abduct her. The courtiers suppress their laughter as Rigoletto re-enters with the Duke, advising him to carry the Countess off and execute her husband. Ceprano is enraged. The courtiers enjoy the scene immensely. The sudden entrance of Count Monterone interrupts the party. Rigoletto mocks him for complaining that the Duke has seduced his daughter. Monterone swears vengeance as the Duke orders his arrest. Monterone places a curse upon the Duke and Rigoletto for laughing at his grief.

Scene 2. The Street and Courtyard of Rigoletto’s house.

Rigoletto is shaken by Monterone’s curse. A strange man, the assassin Sparafucile, accosts him and offers his services. The killer’s sister, Maddalena, will lure any victim to their house, where Sparafucile will execute him. Rigoletto declines the offer. Rigoletto reflects that they are alike — both destroyers of others — Rigoletto with his acerbic tongue and Sparafucile with his sword.

Rigoletto enters the courtyard of his house where Gilda, his young daughter, waits. Noticing that her father is troubled, she begs him to tell her what is wrong. Gilda, not knowing her own history, wants to know who he really is and who her mother was. Rigoletto describes a woman who loved him despite his deformity and poverty. Sadly, she died. When Gilda asks permission to go out into the city, Rigoletto adamantly refuses. Secretly, he fears that the courtiers will find Gilda and accost her. He urges Giovanna, her nurse, to keep a close watch over Gilda.

Rigoletto hears something outside and goes out to investigate. The Duke, disguised in humble clothes, slips into the courtyard and hides, silencing Giovanna by giving her money. Rigoletto returns, and orders Giovanna never to open the door to anyone. The Duke is stunned to discover that the girl is Rigoletto’s daughter. Rigoletto leaves.

Gilda is stricken by remorse because she failed to tell her father about the young man who followed her to church. When Giovanna suggests that he might be a great gentleman, Gilda replies that she would prefer that he be poor. The Duke emerges and throws himself at Gilda’s feet. His words of love capture her and she admits that she loves him. The Duke says he is a poor student named Gualtier Maldé. Hearing footsteps outside, Gilda urges him to leave.

Alone, Gilda reflects on her lover’s name and swears to love him forever. Out in the street, however, the courtiers, armed and masked, are spying on her. They are stunned by the beauty of the woman they believe to be Rigoletto’s lover. Suddenly, Rigoletto blunders onto the scene. It is too dark for him to see, but Marullo identifies himself and confides that they are planning to abduct Countess Ceprano for the Duke. To prove it, Marullo hands Rigoletto the key to Ceprano’s nearby palace. Rigoletto likes the plan and asks to be masked like the others. Marullo obliges Rigoletto’s request and blindfolds him. Secretly, the courtiers clamber into Rigoletto’s house, abducting Gilda. Rigoletto, still thinking they are abducting the Countess Ceprano, at first enjoys the joke but then removes the mask and and discovers that his Gilda is missing Rigoletto cries out, “Ah! The curse”!

Act II

The Duke of Manuta’s palace.

The Duke, having discovered that Gilda has been taken but not knowing by whom, rails against her kidnappers. The courtiers arrive with the news that Rigoletto’s mistress has been taken. The Duke realizes that the abducted woman is Gilda and he is overjoyed to learn that they have brought her to the palace. The Duke hurries off to seduce her.

Rigoletto arrives and looks for clues to where Gilda might be. When he asks about the Duke, the courtiers firmly turn him away, and soon Rigoletto realizes that Gilda is with the Duke. As the courtiers mock him for losing his mistress, he reveals that the young woman is actually his daughter. As he tries to run into the Duke’s chambers, they block him. He threatens them, then begs for their pity, but they ignore him.

Gilda rushes in, weeping for shame, and Rigoletto orders the courtiers to leave. Gilda tells the story of her seduction, as Rigoletto tries to consoles her. Monterone passes by — being led to his execution. Rigoletto swears that he will be avenged and ignores Gilda’s pleas to forgive.


Inside and Outside Sparafucile’s house; by the river.

Rigoletto asks Gilda if she still loves the Duke; she replies that she will love him forever. But through an opening in the wall, she sees the Duke disguised as a soldier and watches as Sparafucile’s sister, Maddalena, flirts with him. Meanwhile, Sparafucile comes out of the house, draws Rigoletto aside, and asks if the Duke should live or die. Rigoletto says that he will come back later to discuss the Duke’s fate.

From outside the house, Gilda and Rigoletto watch as the Duke pursues Maddalena. Rigoletto urges her to go home, change into the male clothing that he has prepared for her as a disguise, and flee to Verona. Rigoletto promises to join her the next day.

After she leaves, Rigoletto fetches Sparafucile and pays him half the money for the murder. When Rigoletto says he will return at midnight, Sparafucile offers to take care of throwing the body into the river, but Rigoletto insists on doing that himself. Sparafucile asks the victim’s name. Rigoletto replies as he leaves, “He is Crime, and I am Punishment.”

A storm is brewing. Sparafucile invites the Duke to stay for the night. The Duke agrees and goes upstairs to sleep. Maddalena wants to let the man live, but Sparafucile wants the money. Gilda reappears outside the house, dressed as a man, and overhears Maddalena trying to persuade her brother not to kill the Duke. The girl suggests that when Rigoletto returns with the rest of the money, they kill him instead. But Sparafucile replies that he is no thief. He offers that if someone else comes to the house before Rigoletto returns, that person can die in the Duke’s stead — the body of that man will then be delivered to the jester. Still in love, Gilda determines to substitute her own life for his. At the height of the storm, she pounds on the door and cries out that she is a beggar in need of shelter. Sparafucile gets his dagger ready. Maddalena opens the door, Gilda enters the house, and Sparafucile strikes.

The storm has abated. Rigoletto arrives, and Sparafucile shows him the sack with the body. Sparafucile suggests that they quickly dump it into the river, but Rigoletto wants to do it by himself. Sparafucile takes the rest of his payment and bids him good night.

Rigoletto is about to roll the body into the water when he hears the Duke singing from inside the house. He pounds on the door, but no one answers. He cuts open the sack, and finds Gilda, his daughter, barely alive. Gilda begs for forgiveness and promises to pray for him when she is in heaven with her mother.

Gilda dies as Rigoletto cries out, “Ah! The curse!”