Metropolitan Opera Broadcast: Rigoletto 

Radio Broadcast of Saturday, December 7, 12:30 P.M.

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The Duke (Beczala) performs "Questa o quella" in Act I
© Beth Bergman 2013
The 2013–14 Metropolitan Opera broadcast season is sponsored by 
Toll Brothers, America's luxury home builder®, with generous long-term support from 
The Annenberg Foundation, The Neubauer Family Foundation,
the Vincent A. Stabile Endowment for Broadcast Media,
and through contributions from listeners worldwide.

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)
The Duke     tenor, MATTHEW POLENZANI
Borsa     tenor, ALEXANDER LEWIS
Countess Ceprano     mezzo, WALLIS GIUNTA
Rigoletto     bar., DMITRI HVOROSTOVSKY
Marullo     baritone, JEFF MATTSEY
Count Ceprano     bass-baritone, DAVID CRAWFORD
Monterone     bass, ROBERT POMAKOV
Sparafucile     bass, SˇTEFAN KOCÁN
Gilda     soprano, SONYA YONCHEVA
Giovanna     mezzo, MARIA ZIFCHAK
Page     mezzo, CATHERINE MiEUN 
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: Joan Dornemann,
     Steven Eldredge, Gareth Morrell,
     Howard Watkins, Liora Maurer
Assistant stage directors: Gregory Keller,
Kathleen Smith Belcher
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 
Revival a gift of the Metropolitan Opera Club

THE SCENES   Timings (ET) 
For this production, the
has been updated
to 1960 
Las Vegas. 
ACT I 12:30–1:35
     Sc. 1The Duke's casino 
     Sc. 2Outside Rigoletto's apartment 
ACT IIThe Duke's penthouse at the
ACT IIIA seedy club on the outskirts
of Las Vegas

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
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 on
     Metropolitan Opera Radio on SiriusXM 
     channel 74.


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.

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Rigoletto (Lučić) and the Duke’s men in the Duke's penthouse
© Johan Elbers 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!"

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Rigoletto (Lučić) and his daughter, Gilda (Diana Damrau)
© Beth Bergman 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.

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Emalie Savoy (Countess Ceprano), Željko Lučić
(Rigoletto) and Piotr Beczala (The Duke) in Michael
Mayer’s Met staging of Rigoletto, set in 1960 Las

© Beth Bergman 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, Michael Mayer's 2013 "Las Vegas" production for the Metropolitan Opera is available with a stellar cast (Željko Lučić, Diana Damrau and Piotr Beczala), conducted by Michele Mariotti. 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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