When a sharp-tongued court jester Rigoletto is cursed for his spiteful words, he is forced to hide his unworldly daughter Gilda from his own licentious master the Duke. For Verdi’s wonderful ambivalent hunchback, paradise is the peaceful home and family that he struggles to protect.
Opéra Orchestre national Montpellier Occitanie’s production of Verdi’s opera confronts the two faces of Rigoletto: that of the loving father-monster who locks up his daughter from the very first scene, and his alter ego, the modern-day buffoon. While the latter, like a comedian alone on stage, sneers at power and the elite, the former reveals his darkest fears and persecution complex. You are invited to witness the public entertainer's last laugh in this lyrical masterpiece where fiction and reality end up merging. Marie-Eve Signeyrole directs the irresistible threesome of the court jester, his daughter and the duke. Roderick Cox, winner of the 2018 Georg Solti Conducting Prize, presides over the Chorus and Orchestra national Montpellier Occitanie.
Duke of Mantua
Marullo / The Court Usher
Chœur Opéra national Montpellier Occitanie
Orchestre national Montpellier Occitanie
Francesco Maria Piave
after Le roi s’amuse by Victor Hugo
Laurent La Rosa
Assistant musical director
The Duke of Mantua is interested in a beautiful girl he has seen in church but at a party in his palace he courts the Countess Ceprano. The humpbacked jester Rigoletto mocks the countess’s husband, who in turn swears revenge. Rigoletto suggests that the Count be arrested or beheaded so that the Duke may do what he will with the Countess. Count Monterone accuses the Duke of seducing his daughter and demands he pay for his crime. After being mocked by Rigoletto, Monterone curses the jester and the Duke before being arrested.
Fearful of the curse, Rigoletto hurries home to check on Gilda, his daughter. On the way, he meets an assassin called Sparafucile, who offers the jester his services. Rigoletto rejects his offer but inquires where he can find him in case he changes his mind. At home, Gilda asks her father about her family background but he gives her no answers. He has hidden her from public all her life and only allows her to leave the house to go to church. Gilda does not even know her father’s name. Before he returns to the palace, Rigoletto warns Giovanna, Gilda’s companion, to keep the door locked at all times. But the Duke has already snuck into the house and realised that the girl from church must be Rigoletto’s daughter. Pretending to be a poor student, he introduces himself to Gilda and professes his love for her. When Giovanna hears footsteps approaching, the Duke escapes through the back door. Still angry at Rigoletto, the courtiers from the party kidnap Gilda, whom they assume be his mistress.
At his palace, the Duke is upset that his new lover has disappeared. When the courtiers tell him that they have kidnapped Rigoletto’s mistress, he realises that the women they are describing is in fact Gilda and rushes off to find her. Rigoletto demands to know of her whereabouts but the courtiers only mock him. He reveals Gilda as his daughter and begs them to let him see her. Gilda emerges from the room in which she was held captive and throws herself into her father’s arms. Monterone passes by on his way to prison and complains that his curse on the Duke was in vain. Rigoletto swears revenge on the Duke as Gilda pleads for mercy for her lover.
In order to dissuade his daughter from her love for the Duke, Rigoletto takes Gilda to Sparafucile’s tavern to show her how the Duke is now seducing the assassin’s sister, Maddalena. The jester orders his daughter to disguise herself as a man and prepare to leave for Verona. Rigoletto then commissions Sparafucile to kill the Duke and place his body in a sack for him to collect later.
A thunderstorm approaches and the Duke decides to stay the night. Sparafucile prepares to kill him in his sleep but Maddalena, who is smitten with the Duke, begs her brother to spare his life. As he has already been paid to carry out the assassination, Sparafucile reluctantly agrees to instead kill the next man who comes at the door. Gilda overhears the conversation and decides to sacrifice herself for her lover despite knowing him to be unfaithful. Disguised as instructed by her father, she enters the tavern and is stabbed by Sparafucile. Rigoletto returns to collect the sack containing the Duke’s body. He is satisfied to have his revenge but suddenly hears the voice of the Duke from afar. Rigoletto opens the body bag and finds his daughter, who begs her father for forgiveness as she dies in his arms.