Verdi himself believed that the plot of Rigoletto, borrowed from The King amuses himself, drama by Victor Hugo, was the best one ever set to music by him. For the first time in opera history, the main character was an old hunchback, a court jester, a hypocrite, hateful to the world. He cruelly avenges himself on all those who do not have a hump on their back.
The director offered a new version of this psychological drama, where instead of being merely a hunchback, the court jester is a sarcastic, smart, and angry man, who, by the way, is not old at all. His hump and his mask are nothing but a clownish appearance that he wears only at the Duke’s court. However, moral ugliness cannot be thrown away like a mask. An extraordinary man, forced to endure constant humiliation, he entertains himself with intrigues, willingly taking part in all dirty amusements of his lord and his entourage. The fate punishes Rigoletto for his cruelty, making him kill his own daughter, Gilda.
Luxurious, exquisite costumes immerse the audience in the historic atmosphere. The characters of the play, dressed in expensive fabrics and whimsical masks, seem to have come directly from the paintings of the old masters. The performance is solid, full of thoughtful details, and just beautiful. Both acting and superb musical performance correspond to the idea of the composer himself who was the creator of the musical drama genre.
A brilliant ball in the ducal palace. Fun. Noisy. There is a river of wine. The Duke sings to the guests about life in pleasure.
Not far away, in one or another corner of the hall, Rigoletto appears - an intelligent, sarcastic, angry court jester who mocks everyone. Many people hate and fear him. Rigoletto is the Duke's favourite, tireless participant and inspirer of all his romantic adventures and cynical fun.
On the advice of Rigoletto, the Duke unequivocally looks after the beautiful Countess Ceprano, intimates with her in a secluded corner of the palace. Count Ceprano is seized with jealousy. Rigoletto makes fun of the unlucky husband.
But Rigoletto is also in trouble. Marullo informs the courtiers of spicy news: Rigoletto has a charming mistress, whom he carefully guards from prying eyes in his house. That would be nice to play a jester!
The festivities are interrupted by the arrival of the elderly Count Monterone, whose daughter the Duke had seduced. Rigoletto provokes him further by making fun of his helplessness to avenge his daughter's honour. Monterone curses both the Duke for the attack on his daughter and Rigoletto for having mocked his righteous anger. The curse terrifies Rigoletto, who believes the popular superstition that an old man's curse has real power.
Hired assassin Sparafucile offers his services to Rigoletto. The jester remembers his name and address.
Rigoletto comes home, takes off the hunchback’s buffoonery. His only beloved daughter, Gilda, who lives locked up at the behest of her father, meets him. Gilda begs to explain the reason for such imprisonment, asks to name her mother's name. Rigoletto rudely interrupts his daughter’s questions.
Giovanna appears and, seizing the moment, draws a sign for the Duke on the wall, who, having bribed the maid, must come on a date to Gilda. Rigoletto notices the sign and, anticipating unkindness, orders Giovanna to guard Gilda more vigilantly, not missing, in the meantime, the opportunity to flirt with the maid.
After Rigoletto leaves, the Duke appears. Gilda recognizes him as a young man she saw in church and has secretly dreamed of meeting for a long time. Here, unnoticed by Gilda, Page, Marullo, Borsa and Ceprano are constant witnesses of the Duke's list.
Giovanna asks the Duke to leave. Instead, the courtiers surround her, jokingly taking the house's key and disappearing with the Duke.
Gilda dreams about an imaginary student. It gets dark. Shadows appear on the street. These are the courtiers who planned to carry out their insidious plan this night. They deceive Rigoletto - as if they are preparing to kidnap Countess Ceprano. The courtiers blindfold the jester and tell him to climb the stairs while they sneak into the house and kidnap Gilda. When Rigoletto rips off the bandage, he realizes that he has been deceived...
A room in the ducal palace. The Duke is concerned that Gilda has disappeared. The page distracts him from sad thoughts ...
The courtiers enter. Cheerfully interrupting each other, they talk about the adventures of the previous night. The Duke guesses that it is about Gilda. Then, not having finished listening to the story, he hurries to look at the girl.
Rigoletto appears. Trying to hide his suffering under the mask of indifference, he hums, but his song is full of anxiety and pain. Rigoletto realizes that his daughter is somewhere nearby. The nobles scoff at him, ask whom he is looking for - is it not his beloved? In despair, Rigoletto exclaims: "Bring back my daughter!"
From the door of the adjoining room, Gilda runs out in tears. In confusion, she tells her father about the first meeting with the Duke as she recalls this terrible night.
The ridicule of the courtiers and the Duke drives Rigoletto to despair - he will take revenge.
Late evening. Rigoletto and Gilda approach the Sparafucile brothel. The father deliberately brought his daughter here so that she could be convinced of the treason of the Duke, who is to come on a date to Maddalena, Sparafucile's sister. Gilda is desperate.
Having sent his daughter away, Rigoletto beckons Sparafucile and makes a deal with him.
The highjacker prepares to commit murder. But Maddalena likes the handsome young man, and she begs her brother to spare him. Sparafucile hesitates but still gives in to her sister. They decide to deceive Rigoletto and kill not the Duke but the first one who knocks on the door.
Gilda returns. Hearing the conversation, she decides to sacrifice herself because she is scared to live in this dirty world. With a sinking heart, Gilda enters the house to meet the lightning strike of a dagger...
Rigoletto arrives with money; he receives a corpse wrapped in a sack. Sparafucile pulls out a coffin with a dead body. Rigoletto rejoices in his triumph. But what is it? The Duke's lighthearted song is heard in the distance. Horrified, Rigoletto opens the coffin and sees the murdered Gilda...
Rigoletto cries out in horror: "La maledizione!" ("The curse!")
The leading soloists of the St. Petersburg Opera present a concert of opera arias performed to the accompaniment of harp and fantasies on themes from famous operas.
The famous opera by Puccini is interpreted as a story about the tragic contradiction between the dream and the prose of existence.