Listen to Rigoletto

Nothing quite compares to the excitement of hearing the biggest stars in the opera world performing with a full orchestra and chorus in front of a live audience. Now you can experience the magnificent sound of full-scale opera free, whenever you like, with Lyric Audio Streaming.

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.

Amazon Music




YouTube Music

Act one

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.

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!”

Act two

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.

Act three

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!”

Meet the artists

* Lyric Opera debut
** Ryan Opera Center alumni
*** Current Member, Ryan Opera Center

Program book

Go inside this production of Rigoletto with engaging articles, notes from the director, a complete plot synopsis, artist bios, and more.

View Digital Program Book

Lyric presentation of Verdi’s Rigoletto generously made possible by

Julie and Roger Baskes

Howard L. Gottlieb and Barbara G. Greis

Candy and Gary Ridgway

Roberta L. and Robert J. Washlow

Production owned by San Francisco Opera.

Lyric Opera Streaming On Demand is made possible through a generous gift from

Robert F. Finke

in Memory of Carol Keenan

Photo credit: Todd Rosenberg, Lyric Opera of Chicago