Opera in three acts by Giuseppe Verdi. Text by Piave from Victor Hugo’s drama “Le roi s’amuse.”
The Duke of Mantua, a wild and debauched youth, covets every girl or woman he sees, and is assisted in his vile purposes by his jester, Rigoletto, an ugly, humpbacked man. We meet him first helping the Duke to seduce the wife of Count Ceprano, and afterward the wife of Count Monterone. Both husbands curse the vile Rigoletto and swear to be avenged. Monterone especially, appearing like a ghost in the midst of a festival, hurls such a fearful curse at them that Rigoletto shudders.
This bad man has one tender point, it is his blind love for his beautiful daughter Gilda, whom he brings up carefully, keeping her hidden from the world and shielding her from all wickedness. But the cunning Duke discovers her and gains her love tinder the assumed name of a student named Gualtier Malde.
Gilda is finally carried off by Ceprano and two other courtiers, aided by her own father, who holds the lad-der believing that Count Ceprano’s wife is to be the victim. A mask blinds Rigoletto and he discovers, too late, by Gilda’s cries that be has been duped. Gilda is brought to the Duke’s palace. Rigoletto appears in the midst of the courtiers to claim Gilda, and then they hear that she, whom they believed to be his mistress, is his daughter, for whose honor he is willing to sacrifice everything. Gilda enters and, though she sees that she has been deceived, she implores her father to pardon the Duke, whom she still loves. But Rigoletto vows vengeance, and engages Sparafucile to stab the Duke. Sparafucile decoys him into his inn, where his sister Maddalena awaits him. She too is enamored of the Duke, who makes love to her as to all young females, and she entreats her brother to have mercy on him. Sparafucile declares that he will wait until midnight, and will spare him if another victim should turn up before then. Meanwhile Rigoletto persuades his daughter to fly from the Duke’s pursuit, but before he takes her away he wants to show her lover’s fickleness in order to cure her of her love.
She comes to the inn in masculine attire, and, hearing the discourse between Sparafucile and his sister, resolves to save her lover. She enters the inn and is instantly put to death, placed in a sack, and given to Rigoletto, who proceeds to the river to dispose of the corpse. At this instant he hears the voice of the Duke, who passes by, singing a frivolous tune. Terrified, Rigoletto opens the sack and recognizes his daughter, who is yet able to tell him that she gave her life for that of her seducer, and then expires. With an awful cry the unhappy father sinks upon the corpse. Count Monterone’s curse has been fulfilled.