Rigoletto Synopsis & Background


Rigoletto Synopsis


Scene 1 - A hall in the ducal palace

At a festive ball the Duke of Mantua is telling Borsa about his latest flirtation, a young woman he sees each Sunday at church. She lives in a remote street and an unknown man enters her house each night. As they admire the ladies of the court, the Duke expresses his admiration for all women and his disdain for monogamy. Count Ceprano watches the Duke pursue his wife and the hunchback jester Rigoletto mocks Ceprano.
Marullo tells the courtiers that Rigoletto has a mistress. When Rigoletto further humiliates Count Ceprano in front of the Duke the courtiers plot their revenge on the jester. The festivities are interrupted by Count Monterone whose daughter’s honor has been taken by the Duke. After Rigoletto taunts him for trying to protest his daughter’s lost virtue, Monterone places a curse on the Duke and his jester.


Scene 2 – The end of a dark and deserted street.

With Monterone’s curse weighing on his thoughts, Rigoletto encounters the assassin Sparafucile, who offers to rid him of any rivals. The jester rejects his services. Left alone, Rigoletto compares how he and Sparafucile use their respective weapons: Rigoletto, his wit, and Sparafucile, his sword. He enters the house and is greeted by his daughter Gilda. When she asks Rigoletto about her family and mother, he insists that she has no family and laments that her mother, the only one to have ever love him, died. As they are speaking, the disguised Duke slips in and recognizes Rigoletto.
After Rigoletto leaves, Gilda confesses her feeling of guilt to her attendant Giovanna. She wonders if she should have told her father about the man who follows her to church. Suddenly she is surprised by the Duke, disguised as a poor student, who declares his love. As she admits her feelings for him, they are interrupted by a noise outside and he leaves. Soon Rigoletto returns and encounters Marullo, Borsa, and other courtiers. They tell him that they are planning to abduct Countess Ceprano and Rigoletto offers to join them. On the pretext that they are all masked, Marullo covers Rigoletto’s eyes and ears. The courtiers break into Rigoletto’s house and kidnap Gilda while he holds the ladder. Realizing what has happened, Rigoletto recalls Monterone’s curse.


A room in the ducal palace.

Upon returning to Rigoletto’s house the Duke found that Gilda had been abducted. Courtiers enter and relate how they kidnapped Rigoletto’s “mistress” and brought her to the palace. Realizing they are referring to Gilda, he rushes off to her. Rigoletto enters and tries to maintain his composure as he searches for signs of his daughter. As he realizes that Gilda is in the next room with the Duke, he tells the courtiers that they have not abducted his mistress, but his daughter.
Gilda enters crying and Rigoletto demands the courtiers leave the room. She tells her father about the Duke’s seduction. Rigoletto decides that they will leave Mantua.


A deserted bank of the Mincio River

Rigoletto and Gilda spy on the disguised Duke who is awaiting the arrival of Maddalena, Sparafucile’s sister. The Duke begins to seduce Maddalena as Rigoletto and Gilda look on. Sending his daughter away, Rigoletto pays Sparafucile half of the fee to murder the Duke and says he will return at midnight to pay the balance and retrieve the body. As a storm approaches, Gilda returns dressed as a boy and listens from outside as Maddalena tries to convince her brother not to kill the man. Sparafucile finally yields, but only if someone comes to the tavern, supplying a replacement corpse. Gilda decides to give her life to save the Duke.
As midnight strikes, Rigoletto knocks on Sparafucile’s door. The assassin accepts the rest of the jester’s money and gives him the corpse which has been placed in a snack. Rigoletto is rejoicing over his vengeance when he hears the Duke’s voice in the distance. Opening the sack, he discovers his daughter. Asking for his blessing, Gilda dies in Rigoletto’s arms.


Rigoletto Background

Background notes coming soon.