In Guiseppe Verdi's first true masterpiece, Rigoletto, the original setting is Mantua, Italy in the 16th Century, where the main characters are the Duke of Mantua (chauvinist and all-around bad boy), his court jester Rigoletto, the jester's angelic daughter (way too innocent and naïve), an assassin for hire and his sister.
Rigoletto has been a favorite with audiences all over the world since it first hit the stage in 1851, and is well known for its catchy tunes, exciting choruses, and brilliant orchestral music.
Now reimagined by Oswego Opera Theater Artistic Director Mack Richardson, Rigoletto – The Oswego Story plots Duke, the personally and politically "connected," owner of a Prohibition-era speak-easy in Oswego. He is a notorious womanizer, and for fun disguises himself as a poor Oswego State University student to romance the college girls. In fact, he tells his capo Borsa that he is anxious to conclude his "adventure" with a beautiful young girl he saw in church and followed to her home, where a mysterious man visits her every night. Duke is the headline singer at his club, and Rigoletto his Don Rickles-like comic, hated by everyone for his vicious and barbed insult-jokes, especially Duke's three capos, Borsa, Marullo and Ceprano. He especially taunts Ceprano because Duke has been pursuing his wife unabashedly. Marullo enters and tells the others that he has discovered that old Rigoletto has a mistress, occasioning great merriment. Ceprano gets his friends to agree to meet later that night to extract revenge upon Rigoletto.
Suddenly the evening is interrupted by the entrance of Monterone, a pillar of the community, who denounces Duke for dishonoring his daughter. Rigoletto mocks Monterone derisively, who then zaps Rigoletto with a Father's Curse. The gathering is cowed by the curse, but Rigoletto is terrified because, unknown to all, he is also a father. Duke's bodyguards haul Monterone away.
On his way home, shaken and further despondent over his lot in life, Rigoletto is accosted by Sparafucile, a hit man for hire, who offers his services at reasonable prices. Rigoletto says he has no need, but pointedly asks where Sparafucile can be found, "if...."
The "mysterious man" and the "beautiful young girl" are now revealed as Rigoletto and his daughter Gilda, the only goodness in his life since the death of their wife and mother. He has been very careful to protect her from all the evils of the world, but of course Duke has already found her, unaware though of her parentage. With the connivance of Giovanna, the nurse, and in his OSU disguise, Duke sneaks into the house and learns all. Right under Rigoletto's nose, they pledge their love. While Gilda sings one of the opera's signature arias, "Caro nome" (Dear name), Ceprano, Borsa, Marullo and their friends appear and kidnap her, this supposed mistress of Rigoletto, and hustle her off to Duke for a surprise. Finding Gilda missing, Rigoletto remembers Monterone's curse.
The kidnappers tell Duke what they have done, and while he delightedly goes off to the room where she is being held, Rigoletto enters, searching everywhere and finally catches the men in their lie. "If you want your mistress, look elsewhere!" they cry, to which Rigoletto bellows "I want my daughter!" Shocked but unrepentant, they restrain Rigoletto until Gilda appears.
Rigoletto tries to comfort Gilda, and is dumbfounded to hear that she still loves Duke. Rigoletto swears vengeance on Duke, as Gilda begs him not to take revenge.
In the final act we are at Sparafucile's dilapidated inn on the Lakeshore, where his eye-popping sister Maddalena has lured Duke, who sings the other signature aria of the opera, La donna è mobile (Women are fickle). Yes, Rigoletto has hired the assassin. Then comes the Quartet of all Quartets, Bella figlia de l'amore (Beautiful daughter of love), where Duke and Maddalena inside the inn and Gilda and Rigoletto outside the inn define the whole situation: Duke – seduction of Maddalena; Maddalena – I know your type, but I kinda love you anyway; Gilda – you are a heartless, deceiving jerk, but I love you anyway; Rigoletto – I told you so!
Rigoletto orders Gilda to leave for Binghamton and wait for him there at her Aunt's house – after he has dumped Duke's body into Lake Ontario. But Gilda cannot bear the thought of Duke's death, and under the cover of a violent thunderstorm, she manages to substitute herself to receive the knife from Sparafucile.
Rigoletto returns and takes the bagged corpse from Sparafucile, who hastily shuts and locks the door and kills the lights. As Rigoletto reaches the Lake he hears Duke singing in the distance. Horrified, he opens the sack to find Gilda's life slipping away while she pleads for his forgiveness and sees her Mother waiting in Heaven. Monterone's curse has been fulfilled.
Tickets are $25 for regular price admission, $20 for seniors and faculty/staff of all educational institutions in the region, and $5 for all students. Tickets are available at the SUNY Oswego Box Office at (315) 312-2141 or online at tickets.edu.
For more information on the event, sponsor information, and/or the Oswego Opera Theater please call (315) 638-0674 or visit Facebook: Oswego Opera Theater Events; www.oswegoopera.org; or email [email protected]