Vladivostok, Primorsky Stage, Great Hall

Rigoletto

Opera in three acts

Performed in Italian
(the performance will have synchronised Russian and English supertitles)
Marking 205 years since the birth of Giuseppe Verdi

Performers

Duke of Mantua: Roman Krukovich
Rigoletto: Dmitry Nelasov
Gilda: Maria Suzdaltseva
Sparafucile: Yevgeny Plekhanov
Maddalena: Tatiana Makarchuk
Count Monterone: Sergei Pleshivtsev

Credits

Music by Giuseppe Verdi
Libretto by Francesco Maria Piave, after the tragedy Le roi s´amuse by Victor Hugo

Musical Director: Valery Gergiev
Stage Director: Irkin Gabitov
Designer: Sergei Grachev (after sketches by Tiziano Santi)
Costume Designer: Giovanna Avanzi
Lighting Designer: Damir Ismagilov
Lighting Adaptation for the Primorsky Stage: Yegor Kartashov
Musical Preparation: Andrei Annenkov
Chorus Masters: Anna Pipia, Larisa Shveikovskaya
Assistants Director: Mikhail Smirnov
Ballet Mistress: Alexandra Tikhomirova

SYNOPSIS

Act I
At a ball in the ducal sumptuous palace, the profligate Duke boasts to his courtier Borca of his amorous conquests: soon he is going to possess the beautiful stranger he often sees in church. Right there at the ball, the nobleman starts making advances to the Countess Ceprano. His jester Rigoletto mocks the Countess’ husband. The courtiers plot revenge on the buffoon for his sharp tongue, one of them, Marullo, informs them that Rigoletto is keeping a mistress at his place. The festivities are interrupted by the sudden appearance of the Count Monterone, who has come to avenge his daughter's honour, but he is viciously ridiculed by Rigoletto. Monterone calls down a curse upon both the Duke and his servant.

On his way home, in a dark street, Rigoletto is accosted by the assassin Sparafucile, who offers him his services. Rigoletto is preoccupied with his thoughts about the curse. He is thinking about his contemptible status and his hatred for the courtiers flares up. At home he is greeted by his daughter, who is everything to him after his wife’s death. They talk tenderly. Shielded from the world by her father’s care, she lives in solitude with her servant Giovanna and only leaves home to go to church. Saying farewell, Rigoletto instructs Giovanna to keep an eye on the girl. The Duke is watching them from his hiding place. He bribes the servant. Pretending to be a poor student, Gualtier Maldè, the Duke declares his love for Gilda. They are interrupted by the noise outside, the “student” has to go. Alone once again, the girl tenderly repeats the name of her mysterious admirer.

In the dark of the night, the masked courtiers have gathered outside Rigoletto’s house, intending to abduct “his mistress”. When they encounter the jester, the plotters convince him that they are going to the Count Ceprano’s house to kidnap his wife. They trick the hunchback into assisting them in their scheme. Rigoletto is duped into wearing a blindfold and, failing to recognize whose house it is in the darkness, helps them to catch his own daughter. Only when he hears Gilda’s distant screams, does he realize what has happened.

Act II
In his palace, the Duke is distraught over the disappearance of Gilda. When he returned to her house, he did not find her there. The courtiers tell him about their midnight adventure. The delighted Duke rushes to Gilda.

Rigoletto appears, concealing his despair under his usual mask of a jester. However, when his anger fades away, he pleads with the courtiers for his daughter’s return, Gilda comes out to her father in tears. Monterone is led by on his way to the dungeon. He laments that the Duke is still untouched by his curse. The hunchman swears vengeance against the nobleman, as Gilda pleads for mercy, confessing that she loves the Duke.

Act III
A tavern on the river bank. Rigoletto has brought his daughter, who is still in love with the Duke, to show her how he amuse himself with another woman. The Duke flirts with Sparafucile’s sister Maddalena. Gilda is in despair. Rigoletto comforts her, promising to revenge her. He sends his daughter to Verona, where they are to meet soon. When the girl leaves, Rigoletto gives Sparafucile half of his fee for killing the Duke - the rest is to be paid when he gets the dead body.

The storm begins. Maddalena begs her brother to spare the sleeping Duke. Their conversation is overheard by Gilda, dressed as a man and ready to set off. Sparafucile agrees to kill the next visitor who will appear till midnight. Gilda realizes that her time has come: the voice of love is stronger than reason. She knocks on the door and collapses stabbed by Sparafucile. The storm dies down. At midnight Rigoletto collects the sack with the body and is about to throw it into the river. Suddenly he hears the Duke singing in the night. The hunchback cuts the sack open and sees his dying daughter. Gilda asks her father to forgive her. Rigoletto falls on his daughter’s dead body, crying out in horror: “The old man’s curse!”

ABOUT THE PRODUCTION

There was one very interesting point in the contract for a new opera concluded in April 1850 between the Board of Venice’s Teatro La Fenice and maestro Giuseppe Verdi.

Or to be more precise, in essence, that point was missing. The matter in question concerned the plot, which the composer was to select basically of his own free will. The strange logic of the Board is, in fact, not so very hard to understand. Verdi’s name was all but a sure-fi re guarantee of success and good box-office takings were assured.

While looking for a plot for his latest opera, Verdi settled for a drama by Victor Hugo: Le Roi s’amuse. The composer was at the height of his powers. He was enchanted with the atypical and ambiguous images of the protagonists, though the most important thing was their passions – the driving force of the plot. But fortune was not to shine on Verdi. At the first production of Hugo’s play in 1832 the Parisians all but arranged an antimonarchist picket, following which the play was banned. That comes as no surprise as at the core of the drama lay an incredibly unflatteringly drawn image of the King Francis I. The choice of such a subject as the basis of a libretto was not approved by the censor: the martial ruler of Venice issued a categorical ban.

Verdi despaired. There was no time to write another opera. This story, however, was to see yet another – even more unexpected – turn of events. Among the censors there was one influential player in the Chief of Police, a certain Carlo Martello. With the best of motives Martello suggested rewriting the libretto, more specifi cally changing the names of the characters, leaving out the monarch’s depraved features and dropping the jester’s hunched back as well as other more or less signifi can’t “details”.

Verdi’s reaction is well-documented. How else could it have been with a composer in relation to a policeman “clamouring” to be a co-author? The theatre, however, jumped at the lifeline. After four days of tense debate, Verdi at last agreed to the compromise. The composer retained the features of the characters, but gave them different names, changed the era and the location and made several other amendments to the dramaturgy. In an incredibly swift period Verdi completed his opera. All the troubles connected with being granted permission to stage the work were in the past.

The most important thing the composer managed to achieve was to create mysterious images and such characters of the protagonists who would not be viewed unambiguously. The dissolute and unprincipled Duke was to be a man who loves life and amusements. His melodies are refined, easygoing and – undoubtedly – pleasant. The Duke’s main enemy is his ennui, which is why he has so much need of the jester.

Rigoletto... A freak instead of a hero – a theme Hugo adored. One year before the play Le Roi s’amuse Hugo had created the hunchbacked Quasimodo. Here the jester was Triboulet, at the end of his life, “a man who laughs”. The hunchback – the opera’s protagonist – was an even bolder step. In one act, Verdi presents two totally contrasting views of this character: a villain angry with everyone surrounding him and a suffering, deeply loving father.

Much later Verdi declared Rigoletto a paradox in his creative career: the obligatory compromises should have affected the opera in a negative way, but what actually happened was that an unusual drama emerged, having a much brighter future than its protagonist.

Daniil Shutko


World premiere: 11 March 1851, Teatro La Fenice, Venice
Premiere of this production: 6 May 2005, Mariinsky Theatre, St Petersburg
Premiere at the Primorsky Stage of the Mariinsky Theatre: 21 April 2017, Vladivostok

Running time: 3 hours
Performance has two intervals

Age category 12+

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