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The Story

Rigoletto, court jester to the libertine Duke of Mantua, is cursed by the father of one of the Duke’s victims for his irreverent laughter. When the Duke seduces Rigoletto’s daughter Gilda, it seems the curse is taking effect.

Rigoletto arranges to have the Duke assassinated. But Gilda still loves the womanizing Duke and sacrifices herself in his place. Rigoletto eagerly uncovers the corpse only to discover his daughter, who dies in his arms.

Background

Giuseppe Verdi wrote in 1855 that Rigoletto, based on Victor Hugo’s play Le Roi s’amuse, was his ‘best opera’. He had to overcome state censorship to stage it – the censors objected to its depiction of an immoral ruler – but he was vindicated by the premiere’s huge success in 1851. Rigoletto was performed 250 times in the next 10 years and has remained one of the most popular of all operas.

David McVicar’s production highlights the cruelty and degeneracy at the heart of the court of Mantua. Richly dressed courtiers engage in brutal orgies and revelries to Verdi's spirited dances. In contrast, Rigoletto lives in a rundown hovel and laments his unhappy existence in a powerful soliloquy. Along with this and Rigoletto’s Act II aria ‘Cortigiani, vil razza dannata!’, musical highlights include the ebullient ‘La donna è mobile’, in which the Duke boasts of his disregard for women; Gilda’s exquisite duets with Rigoletto and the Duke; and the quartet in Act III that weaves the voices together as the story quickens to its shattering conclusion.

News and features

  1. Autumn Season 2014/15

    31 March 2014

    The Royal Ballet opens the Autumn Season with Kenneth MacMillan’s masterful Manon. Highlights for The Royal Opera include Plácido Domingo in Verdi’s dark political tragedy I due Foscari and - in a new collaboration with the Roundhouse - Monteverdi’s Orfeo.