|Francesco Maria Piave based on Victor Hugo's Le Roi s'amuse
|Venice, March 11, 1851
Vivid characters and lively music have made Rigoletto a long-time favorite of both performers and audiences, second only to Aïda among Verdi's works. Rigoletto is the bitter, hunchbacked court jester whose treasured daughter, Gilda, has caught the eye of the womanizing Duke of Mantua. Approaching Gilda, the duke declares his love, and the girl discovers a passion for him. Court nobles, seeking revenge for the jester's many insults, dupe Rigoletto into helping them kidnap Gilda, who is delivered to the Duke and seduced by him. Determined to show his daughter the Duke's true nature, Rigoletto takes her to the house of the assassin Sparafucile, whose sister Maddalena offers the duke her gypsy favors. Rigoletto has hired Sparafucile to kill the duke, but Maddalena convinces her assassin brother to murder a random victim instead. Knowing she will be murdered, Gilda appears in disguise, is stabbed, stuffed in a sack and delivered to Rigoletto in place of the duke's body. At the last minute, the horrified hunchback opens the sack and discovers his daughter, who whispers her last words of love for the duke and dies.