Metropolitan Opera Broadcast: Rigoletto 

Radio Broadcast and Live in HD Transmission of Saturday, February 16, 1:00 P.M.

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A photo from early technical rehearsals for Michael Mayer's staging of Rigoletto at the Metropolitan Opera
© Ron Berard/Metropolitan Opera 2013
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Music by Giuseppe Verdi
Libretto by Francesco Maria Piave, after Victor Hugo's play Le Roi s'Amuse 
THE CAST     (in order of vocal appearance)
Duke of Mantua     tenor, PIOTR BECZALA
Borsa     tenor, ALEXANDER LEWIS
Countess Ceprano     soprano, EMALIE SAVOY
Rigoletto     baritone, ŽELJKO LUČIĆ
Marullo     bar., JEFF MATTSEY
Count Ceprano
     bass-bar., DAVID CRAWFORD
Monterone     bass, ROBERT POMAKOV
Sparafucile     bass, ŠTEFAN KOCÁN
Gilda     soprano, DIANA DAMRAU
Giovanna     mezzo, MARIA ZIFCHAK
Page     mezzo, CATHERINE CHOI
Guard     baritone, EARLE PATRIARCO
Maddalena     mezzo, OKSANA VOLKOVA


The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
The Metropolitan Opera Chorus

Production: Michael Mayer
Set designer: Christine Jones
Costume designer: Susan Hilferty
Lighting designer: Kevin Adams
Choreographer: Steven Hoggett
Chorus master: Donald Palumbo
Musical preparation: Dennis Giauque,
     Jane Klaviter, Linda Hall, Steven Osgood
Assistant stage directors: Eric Einhorn,
     Gregory Keller, Kathleen Smith Belcher
Prompter: Jane Klaviter
Stage band conductor: Gregory Buchalter
Italian coach: Loretta Di Franco

Production a gift of the Hermione
     Foundation, Laura Sloate, Trustee;
     and Mr. and Mrs. Paul M. Montrone 
THE SCENES     Timings (ET)
  For this production, the action
has been updated to 1960 Las
ACT I   1:00–2:12
     Sc. 1 The Duke's casino  
     Sc. 2 Rigoletto's house  
ACT II The casino 2:47–3:17
ACT III Sparafucile's club on the
outskirts of town
Host: Margaret Juntwait
Commentator: Ira Siff
Music producer: Jay David Saks
Producers: Mary Jo Heath, Ellen Keel,
     William Berger
Executive producers: Mia Bongiovanni,
     Elena Park

Directed for Live Cinema by: Gary Halvorson
HD host: Renée Fleming

For more information on the broadcasts,
     please visit

Send quiz questions to:
     Metropolitan Opera Quiz
     Metropolitan Opera
     30 Lincoln Center
     New York, NY 10023
     or e-mail

This performance is also being broadcast live
     on Metropolitan Opera Radio on
     SiriusXM channel 74.

This performance will be transmitted live, in high definition and surround sound, into selected movie theaters, and will be shared with students in more than 100 U.S. schools as part of The Met HD Live in Schools program. For information on tickets, visit

Broadcast Duke Costume lg 213
A costume design by Susan Hilferty
for the Duke

© Susan Hilferty/Metropolitan Opera


ACT I. In his palace, the Duke of Mantua boasts of his way with women. He dances with the Countess Ceprano, then leads her away. His hunchbacked jester, Rigoletto, mocks the Countess's enraged but helpless husband. The courtier Marullo bursts in with the latest gossip: Rigoletto is suspected of keeping a young mistress in his home! The jester shortly returns with the Duke and, sure of his master's protection, continues to taunt Ceprano, who plots with the others to punish him. Monterone, an elderly nobleman, forces his way in to denounce the Duke for seducing his daughter and is viciously ridiculed by Rigoletto. Monterone is arrested and pronounces a father's curse on Rigoletto.

Rigoletto hurries home, still brooding over Monterone's curse. He encounters Sparafucile, a professional assassin, who offers his services. The jester reflects that his own tongue is as sharp as the murderer's dagger. Rigoletto enters his house and warmly greets his daughter, Gilda, who questions him about her long-dead mother. He describes the departed woman as an angel and adds that Gilda is all he has left. Afraid for the girl's safety, he warns her nurse, Giovanna, not to let anyone into the house. When the jester leaves, the Duke appears and tosses a bag of coins to Giovanna, who allows him to slip into the garden. He declares his love for Gilda, who has secretly admired him at church, and tells her he is a poor student named Gualtier Maldè. After he leaves, she tenderly repeats his name and goes up to bed. The courtiers gather outside the garden intending to abduct Rigoletto's "mistress." Meeting Rigoletto outside the house, they ask his help, pretending they are abducting Ceprano's wife, who lives nearby. The jester is duped into wearing a blindfold and holding a ladder against his own garden wall. Laughing at the trick they have played on him, the courtiers break into the house and carry off Gilda. Rigoletto tears off the blindfold and rushes into the house. Seeing that Gilda is gone, he collapses as he remembers Monterone's curse.

Broadcast Rigoletto hdl 2 213
A photo from early technical rehearsals for Michael Mayer's staging of Rigoletto at the Metropolitan Opera
© Ron Berard/Metropolitan Opera 2013

ACT II. In his palace, the Duke bemoans the abduction of Gilda, whom he imagines alone and miserable. When the courtiers return and tell him they have taken the girl from Rigoletto's house and left her in the Duke's chamber, the Duke hurries off to the conquest. Rigoletto enters, looking for Gilda. The courtiers are astonished to find out that she is his daughter rather than his mistress, but they block his attempts to storm into the Duke's chamber. The jester lashes out at their depravity but ends his tirade as a plea for compassion. Gilda appears from the Duke's room and runs in shame to her father, who orders the others to leave. Alone with Rigoletto, Gilda tells of the Duke's courtship, then of her abduction. When Monterone passes by on his way to execution, the jester swears that both he and the old man will be avenged, as Gilda begs her father to forgive the Duke.

ACT III. Rigoletto and Gilda arrive at an inn on the outskirts of Mantua where Sparafucile and his sister Maddalena live. Inside, the Duke laughs at the fickleness of women. From the outside, Gilda and Rigoletto watch as the Duke makes love to Maddalena. The jester sends Gilda off to Verona disguised as a boy and pays Sparafucile to murder the Duke. A storm gathers. Gilda returns to overhear Maddalena urging her brother to spare the handsome stranger and kill the hunchback instead. Sparafucile refuses but agrees to kill the next stranger who comes to the inn, so that Rigoletto will receive a dead body — even though it is not the one he has paid for. Gilda resolves to sacrifice herself for the Duke. She knocks at the door and is stabbed. When the storm subsides, Rigoletto returns to claim the body, which he assumes is the Duke's. As he gloats over the sack Sparafucile has given him, he hears his supposed victim singing in the distance. He opens the sack frantically and finds his daughter, who dies asking his forgiveness. In anguish, Rigoletto remembers Monterone's curse, "la maledizione!"

Broadcast Rigoletto lg 1 213
A costume design by Susan Hilferty for Rigoletto
© Susan Hilferty/Metropolitan Opera 2013


In 1850, when Venice's Teatro La Fenice asked Verdi for a new opera, he was contemplating King Lear, Hamlet or the contemporary Spanish play El Trovador. Finally he decided to adapt Hugo's Le Roi s'Amuse. His sixteenth opera, it continued the central phase of his career begun by Luisa Miller in 1849. Before then, Verdi had written mostly heroic music that inspired Italy; now he had begun to translate human emotions into passionate or tender melodies.

Verdi's imagination was fired by the jester's paternal love, which Francesco Maria Piave emphasized in his libretto. The composition of the music was well under way when the censor objected to the libretto, fearing that a plot showing a monarch in an unfavorable light might provoke demonstrations. Verdi agreed only to change the locale and the names of the characters, the King of France becoming a fictional Duke of Mantua.

Venice cheered the opera at its premiere, on March 11, 1851, and especially the Duke's cavatina, "La donna è mobile." Verdi, realizing how singable it was, had not shown it even to the tenor until two days before the performance, so that it would not be overheard and sung by the gondoliers before the premiere. 

The Met presented Rigoletto in its first season, on November 16, 1883. Marcella Sembrich's Gilda led a cast that included the Rigoletto of Luigi Guadagnini and the Duke of Roberto Stagno. The current Met production, by Michael Mayer, was unveiled on January 28, 2013.


Mary Jane Phillips-Matz's Verdi: A Biography (Oxford) remains the standard-setter; Julian Budden's Verdi, in Schirmer's Master Musicians series, is also useful. For studies of Rigoletto itself, try Charles Osborne's The Complete Operas of Verdi (DaCapo) or Burton D. Fisher's Verdi's Rigoletto: Opera Classics Library (Opera Journeys).

On CD, Tullio Serafin's EMI Rigoletto retains its appeal after more than fifty years in the catalogue, due in no small measure to its potent principal trio: Maria Callas, Giuseppe di Stefano and Tito Gobbi. Richard Bonynge's Decca recording offers a healthy dose of vocal glamour from Joan Sutherland, Luciano Pavarotti and Sherrill Milnes. Two particularly affecting Gildas are Ileana Cotrubas, who joins Plácido Domingo and Piero Cappuccilli for Giulini's typically elegant reading (DG), and Renata Scotto, teamed with Carlo Bergonzi and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau on Kubelik's compelling performance (DG).

On DVD, James Levine paces Cotrubas, Domingo and Cornell MacNeil in a 1977 telecast of the gripping John Dexter production then current in the Met repertory (Universal). Pavarotti, in excellent form, stars with Edita Gruberova and Ingvar Wixell in Jean-Pierre Ponnelle's lavish 1982 film, conducted by Riccardo Chailly (Universal). David McVicar's controversial 2002 production for Covent Garden (Opus Arte) will not appeal to conservative tastes — the sexual licentiousness of the Mantuan court is depicted with particular enthusiasm and no little frontal nudity — but the principals, Christine Schäfer, Marcelo Álvarez and Paolo Gavanelli, offer vivid characterizations, paced with brio by Edward Downes, and the DVD includes a worthwhile short BBC documentary on the composer, Verdi Through the Looking-Glassspacer

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