Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera HouseJuly 6 – August 24, 2018
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Fri 6.7.18
7:30 PM
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Wed 11.7.18
7:30 PM
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Sat 14.7.18
7:30 PM
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Hear the story behind the opera. Join us 45 minutes before this performance when a member of Opera Australia's artistic team will share their insights into the opera. Held in the Northern Foyer of the Joan Sutherland Theatre, this informal and informative talk will help you to get the most out of your opera experience.

Tue 17.7.18
7:30 PM
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Fri 20.7.18
7:30 PM
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Wed 25.7.18
7:30 PM
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Sat 28.7.18
12:30 PM
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Thu 2.8.18
7:30 PM
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Sat 4.8.18
7:30 PM
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Wed 8.8.18
7:30 PM
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Sat 11.8.18
12:30 PM
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Hear the story behind the opera. Join us 45 minutes before this performance when a member of Opera Australia's artistic team will share their insights into the opera. Held in the Northern Foyer of the Joan Sutherland Theatre, this informal and informative talk will help you to get the most out of your opera experience.

Tue 14.8.18
7:30 PM
Buy Tickets
Fri 17.8.18
7:30 PM
Buy Tickets
Tue 21.8.18
7:30 PM
Buy Tickets

Hear the story behind the opera. Join us 45 minutes before this performance when a member of Opera Australia's artistic team will share their insights into the opera. Held in the Northern Foyer of the Joan Sutherland Theatre, this informal and informative talk will help you to get the most out of your opera experience.

Fri 24.8.18
7:30 PM
Buy Tickets

The fires burn merrily in the Duke’s palace, lighting beautiful people doing dark deeds. But the shadows are long in the streets of Mantua.

Tell your jokes, Rigoletto. Lock up your daughter and trust nobody.

From the moment he wrote it, Verdi knew he had a hit on his hands. The story had everything: royalty, loyalty, deformity, devotion, lust and revenge.

And the music? The music was sensational, so full of hummable tunes that Verdi demanded complete secrecy from his première cast. The tenor was forbidden from even whistling the catchy ‘La donna è mobile’ outside of rehearsals. 

The morning after Rigoletto’s triumphant première, that melody rang out in the streets: a hit for ever after. The title character Verdi called the “greatest creation” in the history of theatre had found a home in a masterpiece of music. 

Leo Nucci is the most famous interpreter of Rigoletto in a generation. He brings his legendary performance as the bitter court jester to Australia for the first time, with Gianluca Terranova and Irina Lungu under the baton of Verdi veteran, Renato Palumbo. Dalibor Jenis, Nadine Sierra and Attala Ayan are a dream alternate cast.

Roger Hodgman’s plush, period production presents a dark and dangerous world, with forbidding sets and costumes rich in detail.

Conductor Renato Palumbo
Director Roger Hodgman
Revival Director Hugh Halliday
Set Designer Richard Roberts
Costume Designer Tracy Grant Lord
Lighting Designer Matt Scott
Rigoletto Leo Nucci (6, 11, 14 Jul)
  Dalibor Jenis (from 17 Jul)
Duke of Mantua Gianluca Terranova (until 2 Aug)
  Atalla Ayan (from 4 Aug)
Gilda Irina Lungu (until 2 Aug)
Monterone Gennadi Dubinsky
Sparafucile Taras Berezhansky
Maddalena Sian Pendry
Marullo Luke Gabbedy
Borsa Benjamin Rasheed
Ceprano Christopher Hillier
Giovanna Dominica Matthews
Countess Ceprano Ileana Rinaldi
Page Sharon Olde
Usher Ryan Sharp

Opera Australia Chorus

Opera Australia Orchestra

Please note that this production briefly contains partial nudity.

Running time: approximately 2 hours & 20 minutes, with one interval.

Sung in Italian with English surtitles

Principal Patron

The International Foundation for Arts and Culture


The StoryHide

The Duke of Mantua lives only for pleasure of the female kind. No man’s wife or daughter is out of his reach, and while the Duke seduces their women, Rigoletto mocks their misfortune.

The men of the court want vengeance, and when they hear Rigoletto has a beautiful woman hidden away, they plot to abduct her.

The woman is Rigoletto’s daughter, who despite his best efforts to keep her hidden, has already caught the eye of the lustful Duke. He pays a visit to seduce the beautiful Gilda. Before he can complete his mission, Gilda is kidnapped by the mob of men, who take her to the Duke’s palace for his amusement. The distraught Rigoletto vows to take vengeance.

But Gilda loves the Duke, in spite of everything, and is prepared to go to any lengths to save him from her father’s wrath.

Love and vengeance meet in the darkness as the opera draws to its dramatic, devastating conclusion.

The action takes place in the city of Mantua in the 16th century.

Act I

Scene i: A room in the palace

At a ball in his palace, the Duke sings of a life of pleasure with as many women as possible: 'Questa o quella' ('This woman or that'). He has seen an unknown beauty in church and desires to possess her, but he also wishes to seduce the Countess of Ceprano. Rigoletto, the Duke's hunchbacked court jester, mocks the husbands of the ladies to whom the Duke is paying attention, and advises the Duke to get rid of them by prison or death. Marullo, one of the guests at the ball, informs the noblemen that Rigoletto has a lover, and the noblemen cannot believe it. The noblemen resolve to take vengeance on Rigoletto. Subsequently Rigoletto mocks Count Monterone, whose daughter the Duke had seduced. Count Monterone is arrested at the Duke's order and curses the Duke and Rigoletto. The curse genuinely terrifies Rigoletto.

Scene ii: A street, with the courtyard of Rigoletto's house

Thinking of the curse, Rigoletto approaches his house and is accosted by the assassin Sparafucile, who walks up to him and offers his services. Rigoletto considers the proposition but finally declines; Sparafucile wanders off, after repeating his own name a few times. Rigoletto contemplates the similarities between the two of them: 'Pari siamo!' ('We are alike!'); Sparafucile kills men with his sword, and Rigoletto uses 'a tongue of malice' to stab his victims. Rigoletto opens a door in the wall and returns home to his daughter Gilda. They greet each other warmly: 'Figlia!' 'Mio padre!' ('Daughter!' 'My father!'). Rigoletto has been concealing his daughter from the Duke and the rest of the city, and she does not know her father's occupation. Since he has forbidden her to appear in public, she has been nowhere except to church and does not even know her own father's name.

When Rigoletto has gone, the Duke appears and overhears Gilda confess to her nurse Giovanna that she feels guilty for not having told her father about a young man she had met at the church. She says that she fell in love with him, but that she would love him even more if he were a student and poor. As she declares her love, the Duke enters, overjoyed. Gilda, alarmed, calls for Giovanna, unaware that the Duke had sent her away. Pretending to be a student, the Duke convinces Gilda of his love: 'E il sol dell'anima' ('Love is the sunshine of the soul'). When she asks for his name, he hesitantly calls himself Gualtier Maldè. Hearing sounds and fearing that her father has returned, Gilda sends the Duke away after they quickly trade vows of love: 'Addio, addio' ('Farewell, farewell'). Alone, Gilda meditates on her love for the Duke, whom she believes is a student: 'Gualtier Maldè!... Caro nome' ('Dearest name').

Later, a preoccupied Rigoletto returns: 'Riedo!... perché?' ('I've returned!... why?'), while the hostile noblemen outside the walled garden (believing Gilda to be the jester's mistress, unaware she is his daughter) get ready to abduct the helpless girl. Convincing Rigoletto that they are actually abducting the Countess Ceprano, they blindfold him and use him to help with the abduction: 'Zitti, zitti' ('Softly, softly'). With her father's unknowing assistance Gilda is carried away by the noblemen. Upon realizing that it was in fact Gilda who was carried away, Rigoletto collapses, remembering the curse.

Act II

The Duke's Palace

The Duke is concerned that Gilda has disappeared: 'Ella mi fu rapita!' ('She was stolen from me!') and 'Parmi veder le lagrime' ('I seem to see tears'). The noblemen then enter and inform him that they have captured Rigoletto's mistress. By their description, he recognizes it to be Gilda and rushes off to the room where she is held: 'Possente amor mi chiama' ('Mighty love beckons me'). Pleased by the Duke's strange excitement, the courtiers now make sport with Rigoletto, who enters singing. He tries to find Gilda by pretending to be uncaring, as he fears she may fall into the hands of the Duke. Finally, he admits that he is in fact seeking his daughter and asks the courtiers to return her to him: 'Cortigiani, vil razza dannata' ('Accursed race of courtiers'). Rigoletto attempts to run into the room in which Gilda is being held, but the nobleman beat him. Gilda rushes in and begs her father to send the people away. The men leave the room, believing Rigoletto has gone mad. Gilda describes to her father what has happened to her in the palace: 'Tutte le feste al tempio' ('On all the blessed days'). In a duet Rigoletto demands vengeance against the Duke, while Gilda pleads for her lover: 'Sì! Vendetta, tremenda vendetta!' ('Yes! Revenge, terrible revenge!').

Act 3

A street outside Sparafucile's house

A portion of Sparafucile's house is seen, with two rooms open to the view of the audience. Rigoletto and Gilda, who still loves the Duke, arrive outside. The Duke's voice can be heard singing 'La donna è mobile' ('Woman is fickle'), laying out the infidelity and fickle nature of women. Rigoletto makes Gilda realize that it is the Duke who is in the assassin's house attempting to seduce Sparafucile's sister, Maddalena: 'Bella figlia dell'amore' ('Beautiful daughter of love').

Rigoletto bargains with the assassin, who is ready to murder his guest for money, and offers him 20 scudi to kill the Duke. He orders his daughter to put on a man's clothes to prepare to leave for Verona and states that he plans to follow later. With falling darkness, a thunderstorm approaches and the Duke determines to remain in the house. Sparafucile assigns to him the ground floor sleeping quarters.

Gilda, who still loves the Duke despite knowing him to be unfaithful, returns dressed as a man. She overhears Maddalena begging for the Duke's life, and Sparafucile promises her that if by midnight another can be found in place of the Duke, he will spare the Duke's life. Gilda resolves to sacrifice herself for the Duke and enters the house. She is immediately mortally wounded and collapses.

At midnight, when Rigoletto arrives with money, he receives a corpse wrapped in a sack, and rejoices in his triumph. Weighting it with stones, he is about to cast the sack into the river when he hears the voice of the Duke singing a reprise of his 'La donna è mobile' aria. Bewildered, Rigoletto opens the sack and, to his despair, discovers his mortally wounded daughter. For a moment, she revives and declares she is glad to die for her beloved: 'V'ho ingannato' ('Father, I deceived you'). She dies in his arms. Rigoletto's wildest fear materializes when he cries out in horror: 'La maledizione!' ('The curse!')

"What a treat this production is: An outstanding cast, a simple but effective set with two huge rotating set pieces, colourful costumes and the joy of some of opera’s most glorious music."
The Daily Telegraph

"... the moment where orchestral, vocal and staging planets come into true alignment is in the energetic second act. [...] The muscular strength of the orchestra dissolves into a single cello solo as Rigoletto is reduced to tears over his loss."
The Guardian

"...let the music speak. And how beautifully it does so under conductor Renato Palumbo, with a trio of principals as individual in their artistry as they are consistent in their quality."
The Sydney Morning Herald

"Palumbo and the orchestra’s stylish, sensitive accompaniment was the first of three key ingredients that made this version of Rigoletto such an outstanding achievement. [...] The other successful ingredient was director Roger Hodgman’s new production, returning the opera to its 16th-century context."
The Australian (login required)



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