Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House


The fires are burning merrily in the Duke’s palace as beautiful people at magnificent candlelit dinners party on into the night. Meanwhile, in the streets of Mantua, shadows tread softly.

Words pass between hooded figures, their meaning drowned out by the sounds of drunken revelry. Are they whispering sweet nothings, or bitter secrets? Sometimes it is hard to tell the difference in the gloom.

Verdi’s dark tale glitters with passion and suspense in this glamorous new production. Tell your jokes, lock up your daughter and trust nobody.

The moment he wrote it, Verdi knew he had a hit on his hands.

So much so that for the first performance of Rigoletto he rehearsed the Duke’s famous aria, ‘La donna è mobile’, in secret to avoid giving away what was to prove one of the catchiest tunes in opera.

‘La donna è mobile’ is just one of many fabulous arias in Rigoletto and to serve it well requires exceptional singers.


Verdi is about voice, voice and more voice and Artistic Director Lyndon Terracini is determined to let Australian audiences hear the finest on the world stage.

The cast for this new production of Rigoletto is a gathering from around the world. One of the world's great Verdi experts, Renato Palumbo, conducts.

As the swaggering Duke, Mexican tenor Diego Torre and Italian Gianluca Terranova, who performed this role at La Scala  and the Arena di Verona.

As Gilda, an Australian star, Emma Matthews.

And taking the momentous step into one of Verdi’s most important baritone roles, two singers who have enjoyed immense success in Australia and around the world, Giorgio Caoduro and José Carbó.

Not every singer is discovered on the world stage or developed through the Opera Australia ensemble, however. David Parkin was discovered on television, when he won the role of Sparafucile on Operatunity Oz.

It doesn’t really matter what path leads an artist to this demanding repertoire, nothing beats the thrill of hearing great Verdi singing.


Conductor Renato Palumbo (until 31 July except 26 July evening)
Anthony Legge (26 July evening & from 2 August)
Director Roger Hodgman
Set Designer Richard Roberts
Costume Designer Tracy Grant Lord
Lighting Designer Matt Scott
Rigoletto Giorgio Caoduro*
José Carbó
Warwick Fyfe§
Duke of Mantua

Gianluca Terranova*§
Diego Torre

Gilda Emma Matthews**
Eva Kong§
Monterone Gennadi Dubinsky
Sparafucile David Parkin
Pelham Andrews
Maddalena Sian Pendry
Marullo Luke Gabbedy
Borsa David Corcoran
Ceprano Samuel Dundas
Giovanna Dominica Matthews
Countess Ceprano Eleanor Greenwood
Page Jodie McGuren
Usher Ryan Sharp

Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra

Opera Australia Chorus

* 26, 28 June; 2, 4, 8, 10, 12, 17, 19 July
23, 26. 31 July; 2, 6, 9, 14, 16, 22, 24 August
§ 26 July evening
** 26, 28 June; 2, 4, 8, 10, 12, 17, 19, 23, 26, 31 July; 2, 6, 9, 14, 16, 22, 24 August

Please note that this production briefly contains partial nudity.

Running time: 2 hours & 20 minutes, including one 20-minute interval

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

Act 1

Scene 1: 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 2: 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 2

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 second was a superb cast headed by Italian baritone Giorgio Caoduro’s magnificent Rigoletto. [...] 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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