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  • 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
Page mezzo-soprano

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.


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