Rigoletto by Giuseppi Verdi
As the first scene opens, there is a lavish party is in progress at the duke's palace. The Duke tells his companion, Borsa, about a young woman who has caught his attention at church. No sooner has he finished describing her than he is talking about another woman, the Countess Ceprano. Borsa warns him to look out for her husband. But the Duke is unconcerned. He considers women to be his playthings—he claims he simply can't help himself when surrounded by so many pretty faces
From across the room, the court jester, Rigoletto, sees the Duke's advances on the countess and begins to tease her husband about what is obviously taking place.
Thoroughly fed-up with Rigoletto's cruel humor, the Duke's courtiers decide it's time to turn the tables on him. One of them, a man named Marullo, tells the others that Rigoletto is keeping a mistress hidden away in his house. The group hatches a plot to abduct this mistress and present her to the lecherous Duke.
Suddenly a man bursts in on the festivities. It is Count Monterone and he is furious, accusing the Duke of seducing his young daughter. The Duke orders him arrested.
When Rigoletto begins to mock the devastated father, it becomes obvious that he's gone too far this time. Monterone places a curse on the jester—who isn't laughing any longer as he watches the guards take Monterone away.
Later on, as he's heading home, Rigoletto meets a foreigner named Sparafucile. It doesn't take him long to learn that the stranger is an assassin for hire. In fact, Sparafucile goes so far as to offer his services to Rigoletto, who declines- for the moment anyway.
Once he reaches his home, Rigoletto is thrilled to find Gilda, his secret joy, his daughter. Rigoletto has gone to great lengths to protect her, only letting her leave the house for church services. He tells her very little about himself or the people he works for.
As for Gilda, she obeys her father's wishes… for the most part. She hasn't disclosed to him that there is a man… a man she's encountered at church. A man that she's fallen in love with.
She is thinking about this secret as her father leaves and, suddenly, he is there, in her garden. What Gilda could not know is that her handsome young man is the duke in disguise. He tells her what she wants to hear, making her believe his intentions are good and his love is real. And then he is gone.
Nagged by a feeling that something is wrong, Rigoletto once again returns to his home. He finds Marullo standing outside in the street. Trying to cover up his plot, the courtier convinces Rigoletto that it is the Countess Ceprano they plan to abduct and take to the Duke. Rigoletto is so relieved that he agrees to help them in their plans. He holds the ladder and allows Marullo to place a mask over his head. But the mask blocks his vision and affects his hearing. He doesn't realize that he is assisting the bandits in kidnapping his own daughter, Gilda until it's too late.
Desperate Rigoletto moves quickly from rage to pleading.
A disheveled Gilda soon emerges from the room and runs to her father's arms.
As Rigoletto consoles his daughter, Monterone is led to his execution. Rigoletto promises to avenge them both.
Rigoletto and Gilda are hiding, waiting in the darkness on the edge of town. Gilda is still in love with the Duke, so Rigoletto plans to show her exactly what kind of man he really is. They watch as the Duke enters Sparafucile's tavern and overhear his comments on the disposability of women.
When Gilda realizes that he's there for a tryst with Sparafucile's sister, Maddelena, she is heartbroken.
Rigoletto instructs his daughter to go to Verona (disguised as a man for safety), where he will join her the next day. He then makes the final arrangements with Sparafucile for the Duke's murder. But Maddalena has grown attached to the Duke and strikes a deal with her brother… They agree to kill the next person who knocks on their door and substitute his body for the Duke's.
Gilda, who has changed into men's clothing, as her father instructed- but never left… sneaks back in time to overhear the plan. Conflicted by love, betrayal and grief, she makes the decision to be the first one to knock at the door. She is stabbed, her body stuffed into a sack and presented to Rigoletto. As he drags the sack to the river to dispose of the body, he hears the Duke's voice in the distance. Realizing in horror that the body in the sack could not possibly be the Duke's, Rigoletto pulls the covers down to find his dying daughter.