Rigoletto

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February 2025
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Synopsis

Place: Mantua

Time: the sixteenth century

 

Act 1

Scene 1: Mantua. A magnificent hall in the ducal palace. Doors at the back open into other rooms, splendidly lit up. A crowd of lords and ladies in grand costumes are seen walking about in the rear rooms; page boys come and go. The festivities are at their height. Music is heard from offstage. The Duke and Borsa enter from a door in the back.

 

At a ball in his palace, the Duke sings of a life of pleasure with as many women as possible, and mentions that he particularly enjoys cuckolding his courtiers: "Questa o quella" ("This woman or that"). He mentions to Borsa that he has seen an unknown beauty in church and desires to possess her, but he also wishes to seduce the Countess of Ceprano. Rigoletto, the Duke's hunchbacked court jester, mocks the husbands of the ladies to whom the Duke is paying attention, including the Count Ceprano. He humorously advises the Duke to get rid of Count Ceprano by prison, exile, or death. The Duke laughs indulgently, but Ceprano is not amused. Marullo, one of the guests at the ball, informs the courtiers that Rigoletto has a "lover", which astonishes them. (Marullo is not aware that the "lover" is actually Rigoletto's daughter.) The courtiers, at Ceprano's suggestion, resolve to take vengeance on Rigoletto for making fun of them. The festivities are interrupted by the arrival of the elderly Count Monterone, whose daughter the Duke had seduced. Rigoletto provokes him further by making fun of his helplessness to avenge his daughter's honor. Monterone confronts the Duke, and is immediately arrested by the Duke's guards. Before being led off to prison, Monterone curses both the Duke for the attack on his daughter and Rigoletto for having mocked his righteous anger. The curse terrifies Rigoletto, who believes the popular superstition that an old man's curse has real power.

 

Scene 2: The end of a dead-end street. On the left, a house of discreet appearance with one small courtyard surrounded by walls. In the yard there is one tall tree and a marble seat; in the wall, a door that leads to the street; above the wall, a terrace supported by arches. The second floor door opens on to the said terrace, which can also be reached by a staircase in front. To the right of the street is the very high wall of the garden and a side of the Ceprano palace. It is night.

 

Preoccupied with the old man's curse, Rigoletto approaches the house where he is concealing his daughter from the world and is accosted by the assassin Sparafucile, who walks up to him and offers his services. Rigoletto declines for the moment, but leaves open the possibility of hiring Sparafucile later, should the need arise. Sparafucile wanders off, after repeating his own name a few times. Rigoletto contemplates the similarities between the two of them: "Pari siamo!" ("We are alike!"); Sparafucile kills men with his sword, and Rigoletto uses "a tongue of malice" to stab his victims. Rigoletto opens a door in the wall and embraces his daughter Gilda. They greet each other warmly: "Figlia!" "Mio padre!" ("Daughter!" "My father!"). Rigoletto has been concealing his daughter from the Duke and the rest of the city, and she does not know her father's occupation. Since he has forbidden her to appear in public, she has been nowhere except to church and does not even know her own father's name.

 

When Rigoletto has gone, the Duke appears and overhears Gilda confess to her nurse Giovanna that she feels guilty for not having told her father about a young man she had met at the church. She says that she fell in love with him, but that she would love him even more if he were a student and poor. As she declares her love, the Duke enters, overjoyed. Gilda, alarmed, calls for Giovanna, unaware that the Duke had given her money to go away. Pretending to be a student, the Duke convinces Gilda of his love: "È il sol dell'anima" ("Love is the sunshine of the soul"). When she asks for his name, he hesitantly calls himself Gualtier Maldè. Hearing sounds and fearing that her father has returned, Gilda sends the Duke away after they quickly trade vows of love: "Addio, addio" ("Farewell, farewell"). Alone, Gilda meditates on her love for the Duke, who she believes is a student: "Gualtier Maldè!... Caro nome che il mio cor" ("Dearest name").

 

Later, Rigoletto returns: "Riedo!... perché?" ("I've returned!... why?"), while the hostile courtiers outside the walled garden (believing Gilda to be the jester's mistress, unaware she is his daughter) get ready to abduct the helpless girl. They tell Rigoletto that they are actually abducting the Countess Ceprano. He sees that they are masked and asks for a mask for himself; while they are tying the mask onto his face, they also blindfold him. Blindfolded and deceived, he holds the ladder steady while they climb up to Gilda's room: Chorus: "Zitti, zitti" ("Softly, softly"). With her father's unknowing assistance Gilda is carried away by the courtiers. Left alone, Rigoletto removes his mask and blindfold, and realizes that it was in fact Gilda who was carried away. He collapses in despair, remembering the old man's curse.

 

Act 2

A room in the ducal palace. There are doors on both sides as well as a larger one at the far end by the sides of which hang full length portraits of the Duke and his wife. There is one high-backed chair at a table covered with velvet and other furnishings.

 

The Duke is concerned that Gilda has disappeared: "Ella mi fu rapita!" ("She was stolen from me!") and "Parmi veder le lagrime" ("I seem to see tears"). The courtiers then enter and inform him that they have captured Rigoletto's mistress: Chorus: "Scorrendo uniti" ("We went together at nightfall"). By their description, he recognizes it to be Gilda and rushes off to the room where she is held: "Possente amor mi chiama" ("Mighty love beckons me"). Rigoletto enters singing and feigning nonchalance, but also looking anxiously for any trace of Gilda, who he fears may have fallen into the hands of the Duke. The courtiers pretend not to notice his anxiety, but quietly laugh at him with each other. A page boy arrives with a message from the Duke's wife – the Duchess wishes to speak to her husband – but the courtiers reply suggestively that the Duke cannot be disturbed at the moment. Rigoletto realizes this must mean that Gilda is with the Duke. To the courtiers' surprise, he reveals that Gilda is his daughter. He first demands, then tearfully pleads with the courtiers to return her to him: "Cortigiani, vil razza dannata" ("Accursed race of courtiers"). Rigoletto attempts to run into the room in which Gilda is being held, but the courtiers block his way. After a time, Gilda enters, and Rigoletto orders the courtiers to leave him alone with her. The courtiers leave the room, believing Rigoletto has gone mad. Gilda describes to her father what has happened to her in the palace: "Tutte le feste al tempio" ("On all the holy days") and he attempts to console her. Monterone is led across the room on the way to prison and pauses in front of the portrait of the Duke to regret that his curse on the libertine has had no effect. As the guards lead Monterone away, Rigoletto mutters that the old man is mistaken; he, Rigoletto, the dishonored buffoon, shall make thunder and lightning rain from heaven onto the offender's head. He repeats this vow as Gilda pleads for mercy for her lover the Duke: Duet:"Sì! Vendetta, tremenda vendetta!" ("Yes! Revenge, terrible revenge!").

 

Act 3

The right bank of the river Mincio. On the left is a two-story house, half ruined. Through a large arch on the ground floor a rustic tavern can be seen as well as a rough stone staircase that leads to an attic room with a small bed which is in full view as there are no shutters. In the wall downstairs that faces the street is a door that opens to the inside. The wall is so full of holes and cracks that everything that happens inside is easily seen from the exterior. At the back of the stage are deserted areas by the river which flows behind a parapet that has half collapsed into ruins. Beyond the river is Mantua. It is night. Gilda and Rigoletto, both uneasy, are standing in the road; Sparafucile is seated at a table in the tavern.

 

A portion of Sparafucile's house is seen, with two rooms open to the view of the audience. Rigoletto and Gilda arrive outside. The Duke's voice can be heard from inside, singing "La donna è mobile" ("Woman is fickle"). Sparafucile's sister, Maddalena, has lured him to the house. Rigoletto and Gilda listen from outside as the Duke flirts with Maddalena. Gilda laments that the Duke is unfaithful; Rigoletto assures her that he is arranging revenge: "Bella figlia dell'amore" ("Beautiful daughter of love").

 

Rigoletto orders Gilda to put on a man's clothes to prepare to leave for Verona and tells her that he plans to follow later. After she leaves, he completes his bargain with the assassin, who is ready to murder his guest for 20 scudi. Rigoletto then withdraws.

With falling darkness, a thunderstorm approaches and the Duke decides to spend the rest of the night in the house. Sparafucile directs him to the upstairs sleeping quarters, resolving to kill him in his sleep.

 

Gilda, who still loves the Duke despite knowing him to be unfaithful, returns dressed as a man and stands outside the house. Maddalena, who is smitten with the Duke, begs Sparafucile to spare his life: "È amabile invero cotal giovinotto/ Ah, più non ragiono!". Sparafucile, a man of his word, is reluctant but promises her that if by midnight another victim can be found, he will kill the other instead of the Duke. Gilda, overhearing this exchange, resolves to sacrifice herself for the Duke, and enters the house: "Trio: Se pria ch'abbia il mezzo la notte toccato". Sparafucile stabs her and she collapses, mortally wounded.

 

At midnight, when Rigoletto arrives with money, he receives a corpse wrapped in a sack, and rejoices in his triumph. Weighting it with stones, he is about to cast the sack into the river when he hears the voice of the Duke, sleepily singing a reprise of his "La donna è mobile" aria. Bewildered, Rigoletto opens the sack and, to his despair, discovers his dying daughter. For a moment, she revives and declares she is glad to die for her beloved: "V'ho ingannato" ("Father, I deceived you"). She dies in his arms. Rigoletto cries out in horror: "La maledizione!" ("The curse!")

Program and cast

La Fenice Fenice Orchestra & Coro
conductor Daniele Callegari
chorus master Alfonso Caiani
director Damiano Michieletto

 

Il duca di Mantova
Ivan Ayon Rivas
Davide Giusti

 

Rigoletto
Luca Salsi
Dalibor Jenis

 

Gilda
Maria Grazia Schiavo
Lucrezia Drei

Teatro La Fenice

 

Teatro La Fenice ("The Phoenix") is an opera house in Venice, Italy. It is one of the most famous theatres in Europe, the site of many famous operatic premieres. Its name reflects its role in permitting an opera company to "rise from the ashes" despite losing the use of two theatres (to fire and legal problems respectively). Since opening and being named La Fenice, it has burned and been rebuilt twice more.

 

The Teatro La Fenice was founded in 1792. In the nineteenth century, the theatre staged the world premieres of numerous operas, including Rossini’sTancredi, Sigismondo and Semiramide, Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi (The Capulets and the Montagues) and Beatrice di Tenda, Donizetti’sBelisario (Belisarius), Pia de’ Tolomei, and Maria de Rudenz, and Verdi’s Ernani, Attila, Rigoletto, La traviata and Simon Boccanegra. 

 

In the last century, the Fenice has also placed a special emphasis on contemporary productions, welcoming the world premieres of Stravinski’s The Rake’s Progress, Britten’s The Turn of the Screw, Prokofiev’s L’angelo di fuoco (The Fiery Angel), Nono’s Intolleranza (Intolerance) and Maderna’s Hyperion. Recent premieres have included Kagel’s Entführung im Konzertsaal (Kidnapping in the Concert Hall), Guarnieri’s Medea, Mosca’s Signor Goldoni and Ambrosini’s Il killer di parole (The Killer of Words). 

With a seating capacity for over one thousand people, the Fenice boasts excellent acoustics (which were improved when the theatre was rebuilt after the devastating fire of 1996), a 98-member orchestra and 66-person opera chorus, a dedicated local audience and a large international following. The theatre is a leading creative venue, staging more than one hundred opera performances per year, a major symphonic season conducted by prominent conductors from across the globe (including frequent collaborations with Myung-Whun Chung, Riccardo Chailly, Jeffrey Tate, Vladimir Temirkanov and Dmitrij Kitajenko), the full cycles of symphonies by Beethoven, Schumann, Brahms and Mahler, a contemporary repertoire focused especially on Venetian artists such as Nono and Maderna, ballets, and chamber music concerts. 

The theatre is owned by the Municipality of Venice and managed by the Fondazione Teatro La Fenice, a private body whose members include the State of Italy, the Veneto region, the Municipality of Venice and numerous public and private institutions. The foundation also runs a second theatre, the Teatro Malibran (formerly known as the Teatro di San Giovanni Grisostomo), which dates back to 1678.

The leadership of the Fondazione includes General Manager Cristiano Chiarot, Artistic Director Fortunato Ortombina, Principal Conductor Diego Matheuz and Chorus Master Claudio Marino Moretti.

 

Transport

 

Vaporetto 
from Tronchetto: line 2 
toward Rialto bridge, St Mark and Lido  

from Piazzale Roma and the Santa Lucia train station: line 1 or line 2 
toward Rialto bridge, St Mark and Lido  

stops: take line 1 to Rialto bridge, St Angel, St Samuel or St Mark (Vallaresso); 
or take line 2 to Rialto bridge or St Mark (Vallaresso)  


Alilaguna public transportation service from the Marco Polo airport - take the orange line to Rialto bridge or the blue line to St Mark (Vallaresso)
 

Parking: although you can drive to Venice, cars, bicycles and mopeds are not permitted in the city. You can leave your vehicle in one of the parking garages on Tronchetto or in Piazzale Roma: 

 

Entrances

La Fenice Opera House has two entrances: 
- the stage door is for theatre staff and performers only and is manned by a doorman;
- the main entrance


Lifts

The boxes, gallery and family circle can be reached via elevators

Access 

The theatre complies with all legal regulations regarding special needs accessibility. 

Ufficio stampa Teatro La Fenice
© Michele Crosera
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