Considered one of Verdi’s breakthrough operas, Rigoletto stunned composers including Franz Liszt with its brilliance. But be warned: Behind the musical dazzle is a drama of political and sexual corruption so shocking that Victor Hugo’s Le roi s’amuse, the play on which it is based, was banned for 50 years after one performance. Making his Santa Fe Opera debut in the title role is baritone Quinn Kelsey, of whose London Rigoletto The Guardian said, “his boorish, tortured performance, together with a voice rich and secure from bottom to high top, is incomparable.” His daughter Gilda, the embodiment of innocence, is sung by soprano Georgia Jarman, a former apprentice who also makes her Company debut. The lecherous Duke of Mantua is sung by tenor Bryan Hymel, who scored a huge success in the 2011 production of Faust. Director Lee Blakeley and designer Adrian Linford, who brought The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein to life last season, create a new production of this Italian drama. The young Italian conductor Jader Bignamini makes his American debut.
For further insight into this production of Rigoletto, be sure to watch these interviews with the cast and creative team.
Composer Giuseppe Verdi
Librettist Francesco Maria Piave
Sung in Italian
At a ball at the ducal court of Mantua, the hunchbacked jester Rigoletto ridicules the courtiers cuckolded by the Duke. The Duke has his eyes set on the Countess Ceprano, but also reveals his desire for a beautiful young woman he has seen in church. Count Ceprano, Marullo, and other noblemen have heard that Rigoletto is keeping a young mistress, and begin to plot revenge against the Duke’s right-hand man. Count Monterone appeals to the Duke for the return of his dishonoured daughter, but is cruelly mocked by Rigoletto. Enraged, Monterone calls down a father's curse on the terrified jester.
Outside his house, Rigoletto encounters Sparafucile, a professional assassin, but has no need of his services. At home he warmly greets his daughter, Gilda. Afraid for the girl’s safety, he warns the housekeeper, Giovanna, not to let anyone into the apartment. When Rigoletto leaves, the Duke appears and bribes Giovanna, who lets him in. He declares his love for Gilda and tells her he is a poor student. The Duke’s entourage gathers, intending to abduct Rigoletto’s “mistress.” Rigoletto appears and they tell him they are abducting the Countess Ceprano. They blindfold him and carry Gilda off, with Rigoletto’s unwitting assistance. He then discovers that his daughter is gone and collapses as he remembers Monterone’s curse.
The courtiers describe their abduction of Gilda to the Duke. He is delighted to discover that she has been brought to his palace and awaits him in his bedroom. Rigoletto arrives not long after, happily singing as an attempt to disguise his anguish. The noblemen begin tormenting and mocking him. Rigoletto breaks down and confesses that Gilda is his daughter. Gilda appears and runs in shame to her father, who demands the noblemen leave. Gilda tells him of her seduction by the Duke, and Rigoletto swears revenge.
Rigoletto and Gilda travel to the outskirts of town to visit the assassin, Sparafucile. Before entering a run-down inn, Rigoletto and Gilda overhear the Duke flirting with Sprafucile's sister, Maddalena. Rigoletto instructs Gilda to disguise herself in mens clothing and escape to Verona. Rigoletto enters the inn and makes a deal with Sparafucile to kill the Duke. Infatuated with the Duke herself, Maddalena begs her brother to spare him and to murder the jester instead. Sparafucile agrees to murder the next person who walks through the door instead. Still present, Gilda overhears and decides to sacrifice her life for the Duke’s. She walks through the door and is immediately stabbed. Sparafucile wraps the lifeless body in a bag and gives it to Rigoletto. As he approaches the river, he hears the voice of the Duke in the distance. Frantically pulling the covering aside, he finds his daughter, who dies asking his forgiveness. Horrified, Rigoletto remembers Monterone’s curse.
- The Duke of Mantua - Ragnar Ulfung
- The Duke of Mantua - George Shirley
- Borsa - Howard Fried
- Count Ceprano - Michael Riley
- Countess Ceprano - Ruth Falcon
- Marullo - Leon Petrus
- Rigoletto - Chester Ludgin
- Count Monterone - Gimi Beni
- Gilda - Jeanette Scovotti
- Giovanna - Carolyn James
- A Page - Paula Page
- Court Usher - Robert Pappas
- Maddalena - Jean Kraft
- Conductor - John Crosby
- Director - Lotfi Mansouri
- Scenic Designer - John Wright Stevens
- Costume Designer - Henry Heymann