- Giuseppe Verdi. Melodramma in three acts. 1851.
- Libretto by Francesco Maria Piave, after Victor Hugo's play Le roi s'amuse.
- First performance at the Teatro La Fenice, Venice, on 11th March 1851.
|The Duke of Mantua ||tenor|
|Rigoletto, his court jester ||baritone|
|Gilda, his daughter ||soprano|
|Giovanna, her duenna ||mezzo-soprano|
|Count Ceprano, a noble ||bass|
|Countess Ceprano ||mezzo-soprano|
|Count Monterone, a noble ||baritone|
|Matteo Borsa, a courtier ||tenor|
|Cavaliere Marullo, a courtier ||baritone|
|Sparafucile, a hired assassin ||bass|
|Maddalena, his sister ||contralto|
|Court Usher ||bass|
Rigoletto is happy to abet the Duke in his amorous exploits and his bitter tongue earns him the
hatred of the courtiers, of Count Ceprano, openly cuckolded by the Duke and of Count Monterone,
whose daughter the Duke has dishonoured. Monterone vents his anger at the Duke and curses
Rigoletto. Meanwhile the courtiers suspect that Rigoletto himself has a mistress and plot their
revenge. The bravo Sparafucile offers his services to Rigoletto, should he require them, and
Rigoletto sees a similarity between their functions, before he goes into his house, where he warns his
daughter Gilda, recently returned from her convent schooling, to be careful not to leave the house.
Gilda, however, has been wooed by one she believes to be a young student, whom she has seen in
church. This is, in fact, the Duke. The courtiers take their revenge on Rigoletto by abducting Gilda
and taking her to the Duke, assisted by a blindfold Rigoletto, who thinks he is helping the abduction
of Countess Ceprano. At court again, he turns on those who have tricked him, and plans his own
revenge on the Duke through the agency of Sparafucile. Rigoletto then seeks to disillusion Gilda,
who still loves the Duke, by showing her his depravity. He takes her to witness an assignation with
Maddalena, Sparafucile's sister, having arranged that Sparafucile will murder him. Maddalena,
however, pleads for the young man's life, and Sparafucile agrees that if any other man should come
before midnight, he will kill them in place of the young man, and give Rigoletto the body in a sack,
as agreed. Gilda determines to sacrifice herself for the Duke, and, dressed as a man as she is, enters
the room and is murdered. Her body, in a sack, is delivered to Rigoletto outside, but his delight is
destroyed when he hears the voice of the Duke inside the house, and opens the sack to reveal the
body of his daughter.
Rigoletto is one of the best known of Verdi's operas, with the Duke's La donna è mobile (Woman
is fickle) the most famous of its arias and one that has a particular function in the opera, as it returns
at the end to reveal to Rigoletto the fact that the Duke is still alive. The theme of Monterone's curse,
an element that recurs in the opera, is first heard in the opening prelude, while the Duke's character
is first established with the carefree Questa o quella (This or that woman). Rigoletto's first meeting
with Sparafucile gives rise to his monologue Pari siamo (We are alike), as he considers the weapons
of the dagger and the tongue. Disguised as a student, the Duke protests his love for Gilda, telling her
his supposed name, which she fondly recalls in Caro nome (Dear name). At court, after the
abduction of his daughter, Rigoletto turns on his tormentors in Cortigiani, vil razza dannata
(Courtiers, vile cursed race), later consoling Gilda with Piangi, fanciulla (Weep, child). The third
act quartet takes the drama to a height of tension, as Rigoletto and Gilda secretly observe the meeting
between Maddalena and the Duke, who addresses her as Bella figlia d'amore (Fair daughter of
love), a scene that Liszt recaptures in his piano concert paraphrase of the opera.