Giuseppe Verdi

  • Scene 1

    13 min.

  • Interval

    20 min.

  • Scene 2

    40 min.

  • Interval

    30 min.

  • Act II

    30 min.

  • Interval

    20 min.

  • Act III

    30 min.

Duration: ca. 3 hrs

Opera in three acts
Libretto: Francesco Maria after Victor Hugo’s play Le roi s’amuse
World premiere: 11 March 1851, Gran Teatro La Fenice, Venice 
Polish premiere: 8 November 1853, Teatr Wielki, Warsaw 
Premiere of this production: 12 March 1997

In the original Italian with Polish surtitles

From the famous triptych RigolettoLa traviata — Il trovatore, the first opera is without a doubt the most attractive theatrically. It is mostly thanks to what served as a basis for the libretto — Victor Hugo’s 1832 drama Le roi s’amuse. That frenetic accusation thrown by the French Romantic against the feudal system in which the rulers for a caprice would trample the dignity and feelings of their subjects, from a theatrical point of view turns out to be a masterful game of masks, disguises both literal and metaphorical.

The shows is designed mostly for those viewers who are not fans of the contemporary Regietheater known for its indulgence when it comes to letting fantasy run wild. Monumental court scenes are contrasted here with an intimate and gradually intensifying drama of the title jester, whose daughter is hurt by his employer, the Duke of Mantua. The final images, immersed in gloomy darkness, are the most harrowing: Rigoletto, certain that he has just killed the hated aristocrat, is shocked when the first words of Duke of Man-tua’s tune reach his ears — the emblematic for Verdi’s score song about women’s fickleness.



Chorus and Orchestra of the Teatr Wielki  Polish National Opera
Polish National Ballet


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    Act I

    Strolling among the courtiers in his palace ballroom, the Duke ot Mantua lightheartedly boasts of his way with women (‘Questa o quella’). After flirting with his newest quarry, the Countess Ceprano, he escorts her from the room, followed by his hunchbacked jester, Rigoletto, who openly mocks the Countess’ enraged but helpless husband.A courtier named Marullo bursts in with the latest gossip: Rigoletto is suspected of keeping a young mistress in his home. The jester shortly returns with the Duke and, sure of his master’s protection, continues to taunt Ceprano, who plots with others to punish him. When Monterone, an elderly nobleman, forces his way into the room to denounce the Duke for seducing his daughter, he is viciously derided by Rigoletto. As Monterone is arrested, he pronounces a father’s curse on both the Duke and the jester, who falls to the floor in terror.

    Late that night, brooding over Monterone’s curse, Rigoletto hurries to the house where he has hidden his daughter, Gilda. On the way he encounters Sparafucile, a professional assassin, who offers his services; but the jester dismisses him, reflecting that his own tongue is as sharp as the murderer’s dagger (‘Pari siamo!’). His mood brightens when he is greeted by Gilda, who questions him about her long-dead mother; he nostalgically describes his wife as an angel (‘Duet: Deh, non parlare’), adding that Gilda is all he has left. Afraid for the girl’s safety, he warns her nurse, Giovanna, to admit no one to the house. As the jester leaves however, the Duke slips into the garden, tossing a purse to Giovanna to keep her quiet. He declares his love to Gilda (duet ‘E il sol dell’anima’), who has secretly admired him at church, and tells her he is ‘Gualtier Malde’, a poor student. At the sound of footsteps Gilda begs him to leave; alone, she tenderly repeats his name (‘Caro nome’) and then goes up to bed. Meanwhile, the malicious courtiers stop Rigoletto outside his house and ask him to help abduct Ceprano’s wife, who lives nearby. The jester is duped into wearing a blindfold and holding a ladder against the wall of his own house. Laughing at how they have tricked him, the courtiers break into his house and carry off Gilda. Rigoletto, hearing his daughter’s cry for help, tears off his blindfold and rushes into the house: discovering only her scarf, he collapses as he remembers Monterone’s curse.

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    Act II

    In his palace, the Duke is distraught over the kidnapping of Gilda, whom he imagines alone and miserable (‘Parmi veder le lagrime’). When his courtiers return, saying that it is they who have taken her and that she is now in his chamber, he rushes off to the conquest.

    Soon Rigoletto enters, searching for Gilda; though the courtiers are astonished to learn she is not his mistress but his daughter, they bar his way. The jester lashes out at their cruelty (‘Cortigiani, vil razza dannata’) but ends his tirade with a plea for mercy. Just then Gilda appears, dishevelled in her nightdress; she runs in shame to her father, who orders the others to leave. Alone with Rigoletto, Gilda tells of the Duke’s courtship, then of her abduction (‘Tutte le feste al tempio’). As Monterone is led to the dungeons, still cursing the Duke, the jester swears vengeance. Meanwhile, the lovelorn Gilda begs her father to forgive the Duke (duet ‘Si, vendetta’).

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    Act III

    On a dark night, Rigoletto and Gilda wait outside the abandoned inn on the outskirts of Mantua where Sparafucile and his sister Maddalena live. Gilda watches in disbelief while the Duke, disguised as a soldier and laughing at the fickleness of women (‘La donna è mobile’), makes love to Maddalena. Rigoletto comforts his daughter as Maddalena leads the libertine on (quartet ‘Bella figlia dell’amore’). Telling Gilda to dress as a boy, the jester sends her off to Verona, then pays Sparafucile to murder the Duke and leaves.

    As a storm gathers, Gilda returns to overhear Maddalena urge her brother to spare the handsome stranger and kill Rigoletto instead. Sparafucile refuses but agrees to substitute the next guest who comes to the inn. Gilda, resolved to sacrifice herself for the Duke even though he has betrayed her, knocks at the door and is stabbed. When the storm subsides, Rigoletto returns to claim the body; he gloats over the sack Sparafucile gives him, only to hear his supposed victim singing in the distance. Frantically cutting open the sack, he finds his daughter, who dies asking his forgiveness (duet ‘Lassu in cielo’). Rigoletto cries out: ‘Ah, the curse!’


  • Partners of Teatr Wielki – Polish National Opera

  • Media patrons of Teatr Wielki – Polish National Opera