Most recent performance
There are currently no scheduled performances of Rigoletto. It was last on stage 12 September—6 October 2014 as part of the Autumn 2014/15 season.
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.
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
8 December 2016
The composer made it his mission to subvert the rigid culture of opera, and his controversial works saw him frequently battle the authorities.
21 May 2015
The composer of La traviata, Macbeth and Otello consolidated and innovated the opera of his time.
Stormy Weather #2: Smart techniques for bringing a storm to the stage from history's great composers23 January 2015
Beethoven inspired a host of operatic composers including Rossini, Verdi and Weill in musical methods for creating an operatic storm.
5 December 2014
Curses, seduction and murder – why are operatic parties always doomed to end in tears?
3 October 2014
The city has an important association with the art form that reaches from I due Foscari to Death in Venice.
23 September 2014
Storms as a narrative and compositional device in Rigoletto, Idomeneo and Il barbiere di Siviglia.
Rigoletto ([riɡoˈletto]) is an opera in three acts by Giuseppe Verdi. The Italian libretto was written by Francesco Maria Piave based on the play Le roi s'amuse by Victor Hugo. Despite serious initial problems with the Austrian censors who had control over northern Italian theatres at the time, the opera had a triumphant premiere at La Fenice in Venice on 11 March 1851. It is considered by many to be the first of the operatic masterpieces of Verdi's middle-to-late career. Its tragic story revolves around the licentious Duke of Mantua, his hunch-backed court jester Rigoletto and Rigoletto's beautiful daughter Gilda. The opera's original title, La maledizione (The Curse), refers to the curse placed on both the Duke and Rigoletto by a courtier whose daughter had been seduced by the Duke with Rigoletto's encouragement. The curse comes to fruition when Gilda likewise falls in love with the Duke and eventually sacrifices her life to save him from the assassins hired by her father.