Explore the story of Rigoletto

Act I

A party – and a curse

The womanising Duke of Mantua is hosting a magnificent party in his apartments. His jester Rigoletto cruelly mocks the husbands and fathers of the many women his master has seduced. One of them – Monterone – curses Rigoletto. The jester is terrified; unbeknownst to the court, he has a daughter of his own, hidden away, and fears for her safety.

Rigoletto’s secret daughter

Still fearful and anxious, Rigoletto returns home to check on his daughter Gilda. But, despite all his precautions, the Duke has already caught sight of the beautiful girl in church and followed her home. Sneaking in, he tells her that he is a poor student and that he loves her. Gilda, who has also seen him, returns his feelings.

The curse begins

Angry at Rigoletto’s cruelty, the courtiers have plotted to kidnap Gilda – the woman they believe is the jester’s secret mistress. When Rigoletto finds them near his home they tell him that they are planning to kidnap a courtier’s wife and take her to the Duke – will he join them? Rigoletto agrees and, wearing a mask that covers his eyes, holds the ladder while the abduction takes place. Removing the mask, he realises that he has been betrayed, and remembers the curse.

Act II

The morning after

Rigoletto returns to the court, desperately looking for Gilda. Overcome with anger, he rages at the courtiers and begs for his daughter’s return. Suddenly Gilda bursts in, crying. She tells her father the whole story of the young man she met in church and of her abduction.


Rigoletto makes a plan for them to leave Mantua. But before they leave he swears revenge on the Duke. Gilda pleads for his mercy on the man she still loves.


More betrayal

Rigoletto follows the Duke to a tavern where he drinks and flirts with the Maddalena – the assassin Sparafucile’s seductive sister. Gilda watches her unfaithful lover and is heartbroken. Rigoletto sends he home to Verona, disguising her first as a man for her safety.

And more revenge

Promising that he will take revenge before joining Gilda in Verona, Rigoletto pays Sparafucile to murder the Duke. Maddalena, hearing the plan, begs her brother to spare the man she too loves. But he is adamant: unless Maddalena can find another victim before midnight, the Duke dies.

The curse is fulfilled

Gilda, dressed as a man, overhears the conversation and resolves to sacrifice herself for her unfaithful lover. She knocks on the tavern door and is immediately stabbed by Sparafucile. Rigoletto returns to collect the sack in which he hopes to find the dead body of the Duke, but when he opens it he finds instead his own daughter. She dies in his arms, and he realises that the curse has been fulfilled.

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