2h 8min · Drama, Music · 24 January 1992
This summary contains the complete plot of the opera Rigoletto by Guiseppi Verdi. Rigoletto is a jester in the court of the Duke of Mantua. He has a hunch-back and he's rather unattractive, but he's good at his job of humiliating the courtiers for the amusement of the Duke. The courtiers, of course, are not amused. The Duke is a ladies man who feels his life would be meaningless if he couldn't chase every skirt he sees. In fact, we learn as the opera begins that he's recently been noticing a young lady every Sunday on her way to church, and he's vowed to have his way with her. What nobody realizes is that the girl is the jester's beloved daughter, Gilda, and that Gilda has seen the Duke every Sunday and is smitten with him. Suddenly Count Monterone appears at court, furious that the Duke has seduced his daughter. Rigoletto ridicules Monterone, the Duke laughs, and Monterone casts an awful curse on both of them. Later, the courtiers discover that Rigoletto is secretly living with Gilda, whom they believe to be his mistress. In an attempt to humiliate Rigoletto, they kidnap Gilda and deliver her to the Duke's bedroom, where she is quite willing to let him have his way with her. Rigoletto returns to the court and reveals to the courtiers' amusement that Gilda is his daughter. Consumed with the desire for revenge, Rigoletto contacts a murderous thief named Sparafucile (who just happens to have a beautiful sister named Maddalena), and he contracts with the two of them to lure the Duke to Sparafucile's tavern on the river where Sparafucile will murder the Duke. Knowing the Duke will find Maddalena irresistible, Rigoletto takes Gilda to stand outside the tavern so she can see for herself that the Duke is not a faithful lover. Gilda is crushed as she looks through the window to see the Duke wooing Maddalena, and at Rigoletto's urging she dons men's clothing so she can return home safely by herself. But she returns to the tavern to overhear Rigoletto and Sparafucile plotting to kill the Duke. Then, after Rigoletto leaves, she hears Maddalena pleading with Sparafucile not to kill the Duke, but instead to kill the first person who comes through the door and give that body to Rigoletto instead. Sparafucile objects that he is an honest thief and murderer, but Maddalena's entreaties win him over and he agrees to the plan. Gilda now realizes what she must do: she knocks on the door, enters the tavern and is stabbed (nearly) to death by Sparafucile. The thief then wraps her in a rug and drops her body through a trap door to Rigoletto, who is waiting in a boat below. Thinking he has won vengeance at last on the Duke, Rigoletto paddles onto the river to dispose of the body. Then he hears the Duke singing in the distance, opens the rug, and to his horror he discovers his almost-dead daughter. They sing a heartbreaking duet, Gilda dies, and the wretched Rigoletto wails that the curse has come to pass.
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