Rigoletto Verdi at Lyric Opera of Chicago

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Rigoletto Verdi at Lyric Opera of Chicago



by Giuseppe Verdi
Sung in Italian with projected English translations


Rigoletto Opera Overview

There’s no character in opera more powerfully dramatic than the court jester Rigoletto, whose acid tongue and all-consuming desire for revenge lead to catastrophe for himself and his sweet, love-struck daughter Gilda. Of all the great Verdi works, none boasts more unforgettable tunes than this one. You’ll thrill to the licentious Duke of Mantua’s “La donna è mobile” and Gilda’s stunning “Caro nome,” not to mention the most celebrated quartet in all opera. Dominating the story, though, is Rigoletto himself, one of Verdi’s greatest characterizations—a complex and tragic figure, both pitiful and ferocious, with stupendous music to match.
“[It’s] not just the size of his voice or the finish of his technique, although both are impressive. It’s his heart. You hear the pain behind the anger...vulnerability is evident in every phrase.”
Opera News on Quinn Kelsey’s Rigoletto



Production owned by San Francisco Opera.

Approximate Running Time: 2 hours, 33 minutes with 1 intermission




Photo: Todd Rosenberg

Rigoletto Opera Resources

Join us in the theater one hour before the curtain rises for a free, 30-minute preview talk about the opera. Learn more about pre-opera talks.


The Duke of Mantua is a notorious womanizer and his court jester, the pitiful and vicious Rigoletto, has an acid tongue when recounting tales of men’s wives, daughters and sisters who have all succumbed to the Duke’s charms. When Rigoletto discovers that his own daughter has fallen prey to the Duke, the jester seeks revenge for the loss of her innocence, but his vengeance consumes him and proves to be his curse. Some lose their hearts and others their lives in this dramatic story of love, lust, and retribution.

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Rigoletto opera tickets at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Audio Highlights

Giuseppe Verdi

EMI recording — MacNeil, Grist, Gedda, di Stasio, cond. Molinari-Pradelli. Courtesy of Warner Classics

“Gualtier Maldè!...Caro nome”

“La donna è mobile”

“Bella figlia dell’amore”

Rigoletto at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Opera Commentary

commentary by Colin Ure

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Rigoletto at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Two Verdi Guys in Chicago

Rigoletto marks the first time baritone Quinn Kelsey and tenor Matthew Polenzani have starred together in a Lyric production. These Ryan Opera Center alumni are highly sought after worldwide, and they cherish their ongoing association with Lyric.

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Seasons of Delight

Everyone Plays The Fool

Rigoletto may have premiered in 1851, but its universal themes are what have made it a classic that stands the test of time. Director E. Loren Meeker is preparing to bring this riveting story and its unforgettable characters to life in a way that speaks with a relevant voice to today's audiences.

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Seasons of Delight

Technical Director Michael Smallwood Talks Rigoletto

After a successful run at the San Francisco Opera earlier this summer, this new-to-Lyric production of Rigoletto heads straight to Chicago! Michael Smallwood, Lyric's technical director, opens up about what moving an opera's sets, costumes, and props from one city to another really entails.

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Seasons of Delight

Season of Delights

Throughout Lyric’s history Verdi’s Rigoletto has been an audience favorite, thanks to some of the most irresistible melodies in Italian opera! It’s returning in a beautiful San Francisco Opera production conducted by the dynamic Marco Armiliato and starring three truly extraordinary artists.

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Music for Rigoletto provided by through generous arrangement with Warner Classics, Official Education and Promotion Music Provider for Lyric Opera of Chicago.

© 2017/18 Lyric Opera Commentaries Original sound recordings of musical excerpts used by permission of Warner Music Group. All rights reserved. Recording & Production services provided by Mark Travis.
Lyric Opera Commentaries are sponsored by the Patrick G. and Shirley Welsh Ryan Foundation in memory of their parents.

Rigoletto Synopsis

16th-century Mantua

Scene 1. The Duke’s palace
Scene 2. A street


A room in the Duke’s palace

Sparafucile’s inn


Scene 1.
The Duke of Mantua boasts to a courtier, Borsa, about his most recent infatuation. A girl has enchanted the Duke, but ultimately it makes no difference to him whether he pursues one woman or another. Wishing to select one with whom to spend the evening, he surveys the court and settles upon the Countess Ceprano just as the court jester Rigoletto mocks her husband. Another courtier, Marullo, arrives with surprising news to share with his fellow courtiers: Rigoletto has a mistress. In the meantime, the Duke and Rigoletto discuss several unscrupulous methods of disposing of superfluous husbands. Realizing that he is the object of Rigoletto’s sarcasm, Count Ceprano arranges for a midnight meeting with some of the courtiers to obtain vengeance. The party is interrupted by the arrival of the nobleman Monterone, who storms in to denounce the Duke for dishonoring his daughter. He curses the Duke, and when mocked viciously by Rigoletto, Monterone turns on the jester and curses him as well.

Scene 2.
Brooding over Monterone’s curse, Rigoletto returns to the secluded house where he shields his daughter, Gilda, from the licentiousness of the Duke’s court. Sparafucile, a professional assassin, confronts Rigoletto and offers to help should Rigoletto ever wish to rid himself of an enemy. Once alone, Rigoletto muses on the similarity of their professions – Rigoletto wounding others with his wit, while Sparafucile uses a knife.

Rigoletto returns home and greets his daughter, Gilda, declaring that she means the world to him. She reciprocates his feelings but questions why he has kept her concealed. He fears the courtiers and warns the housekeeper, Giovanna, to guard Gilda carefully. Hearing a noise in the street, he goes out to investigate. Gilda confesses to Giovanna that she loves a young man who has followed her home every day after church. The Duke, who has been eavesdropping on the scene, steps out of hiding and declares his love, identifying himself as Gualtier Maldè, a penniless student. Hearing footsteps, he rushes off, leaving Gilda thinking lovingly of his name.

The courtiers appear, ready to abduct Rigoletto’s supposed mistress. Rigoletto surprises them by returning, but Marullo convinces him that they are planning to abduct the wife of Count Ceprano, who lives nearby. Rigoletto falls into their trap and in the confused darkness he doesn’t realize that it is Gilda who has been kidnapped until she cries out to her father as she is carried off. Realizing the trick too late, Rigoletto cries, “Ah, the curse!”


The Duke, unaware of the kidnapping, laments the fact that when he returned to Gilda’s house he found it deserted. When the courtiers tell him of the abduction, he rejoices that the girl is now in the palace. Rigoletto appears, feigning nonchalance. Once it becomes clear to him that Gilda must be with the Duke, he desperately tries to reach her, but the courtiers hold him back. His fury dissolves into a bereft father’s pleading. Gilda bursts into the scene and Rigoletto orders the courtiers to leave him alone with his daughter. Gilda confesses that she loves the Duke and begs her father to forgive him. As Monterone appears on his way to prison, Rigoletto swears that they both will be avenged.


Rigoletto has brought Gilda to Sparafucile’s inn to prove the Duke’s faithlessness. As they lurk in the darkness, the Duke swaggers in. After proclaiming the fickleness of women, he charms Maddalena, Sparafucile’s sister. As the flirtation progresses, Rigoletto tries to comfort his despairing daughter. He orders her to return home, disguise herself as a boy, and meet him in Verona. After striking a bargain with Sparafucile for the Duke’s murder, he departs.

Gilda, unwilling to follow her father’s orders, returns to the inn and overhears Maddalena begging her brother to spare the handsome stranger’s life. Sparafucile agrees to deceive Rigoletto by substituting the corpse of the next person who appears at the inn. Determined to sacrifice herself so the Duke may live, Gilda becomes Sparafucile’s next victim.

Rigoletto returns and is given a sack containing a body. Hearing the Duke’s voice in the distance, he frantically cuts open the bag and finds his dying daughter. Begging her father’s forgiveness, she dies. Rigoletto cries out once more, “Ah, the curse!”

Featured Media

Rigoletto at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Rigoletto Trailer

Matthew Polenzani on the powerhouse cast of RIGOLETTO

The powerhouse cast of RIGOLETTO

Quinn Kelsey on Why the story of RIGOLETTO remains relevant today.

Why the story of RIGOLETTO remains relevant today.

Quinn Kelsey's insights into the character of RIGOLETTO

Insights into the character of RIGOLETTO

The Costumes of RIGOLETTO.

The Costumes of RIGOLETTO.

Director, E. Loren Meeker, on the relevance of RIGOLLETO for today's audience

E. Loren Meeker on the relevance of RIGOLETTO

Makeup Looks inspired by Lyric's 2017/18 Season: RIGOLETTO

Makeup Looks inspired by Lyric's 2017/18 Season: RIGOLETTO