(1851) is an opera by Giuseppe Verdi
(based on the play Le roi s'amuse
(1832) by Victor Hugo
) about the Duke of Mantua, a Handsome Lech
if ever there was one, and his hunchbacked jester Rigoletto
, a Deadpan Snarker
whose quips hit a little too close to home. The opera opens with the Duke plotting the seduction of a young beauty he met in church while gossips whisper that Rigoletto has found a mistress. Count Monterone, whose daughter was seduced by the Duke, comes to complain of her ruined virtue, and the Duke, on Rigoletto's blithe advice
, shuts him up by having him executed
. Monterone pronounces a curse on them both, and the other courtiers resolve to revenge themselves on Rigoletto for his callous jokes. On his way home from work, Rigoletto also runs into a Professional Killer
, Sparafucile, who offers his services in removing anyone Rigoletto might find inconvenient. Now, finally, enter The Ingenue
, The Chick
and The Heart
: Gilda, the woman who is simultaneously: the woman believed to be Rigoletto's mistress; the beautiful girl the Duke met at church; and, unbeknownst to everyone
, Rigoletto's daughter
Well, that's all the first act. But being a tragedy
, you can guess how the rest plays out.
This is the source of "La Donna è Mobile
" ("Woman is Fickle
") and "Cara Nome
" ("Cherished Name
"), two of the most famous opera tunes. Beautiful music and tragic love, what else does an opera need?
This work contains examples of the following tropes:
- Badass Baritone: Sparafucile, even though he's a bass.
- Bathe Her and Bring Her to Me: This is roughly the Duke's reaction when he discovers that his court have kidnapped his beloved church-going lass.
- Broken Bird: Arguably, Maddalena.
- The Casanova: The Duke. We see him seducing Gilda and Maddalena during the opera, and the first act makes it clear that they are just the latest in a long string of conquests.
- Catch Phrase: Rigoletto sure likes to say "The old man has cursed me!"
- Died in Your Arms Tonight: Gilda survives her assassination by Sparafucile for just long enough for Rigoletto to discover her inside the sack and hold her as she dies.
- The Dog Bites Back: Rigoletto thinks he does this... though the situation is much more complicated.
- Downer Ending: Rigoletto opens the sack Sparafucile has told him contains the Duke's body to find Gilda, who dies in his arms, apparently fulfilling Count Monterone's curse.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Sparafucile rejects Maddalena's suggestion that they take Rigoletto's money and let the Duke go, saying that he never cheats his customers.
- Evil Sounds Deep: Sparafucile's role gives him an F2—just one off from the E2, the lowest note you're ever supposed to ask a human being to sing.
- Hitman with a Heart: Sparafucile, to at least a degree. He takes his jobs seriously due to his honor, never double-crosses anyone, and cares for his younger sister Maddalena. Though "Sister" and "brother" may be nineteenth-century euphemisms for "prostitute" and "pimp".
- Honey Trap: Maddalena has a habit of bedding Sparafucile's intended victims so that he can kill them while they are vulnerable, and follows this pattern with the Duke only to fall In Love with the Mark.
- Hypocritical Humor: The love-'em-and-leave-'em Duke is the one claiming that "Woman Is Fickle"? (Alternatively, he's just using this as his excuse for his philandering ways, at which point he is still a jerkass but no longer a hypocrite.)
- Idiot Ball: How do the courtiers kidnap Gilda? By getting Rigoletto to help them. Somehow he doesn't notice the geography and goes along with it.
- The Ingenue: Gilda.
- In Love with the Mark: Maddalena. And when she ought to know better, too, since she's done this for Sparafucile's other victims before.
- Instant Seduction: The Duke. He's good.
- Ironic Echo:
- "La donna e mobile" is sung for the third time towards the finale... revealing to Rigoletto that the corpse in the body bag isn't who he thinks it is.
- "Chi e mai di nuovo, buffon?" - the 'echo' is delivered immediately, though.
- "I Want" Song and "I Am" Song: The Duke's opening song, 'Questa o quella' ("This Woman or That"), fits both tropes by identifying the Duke as The Casanova, a man who lives for the intimate company of women (especially other men's wives).
- Karma Houdini: The Duke. Particularly interesting in that Count Monterone curses both of them, but only Rigoletto gets any real comeuppance (the Duke is last heard happily singing "La Donna è Mobile" in the distance, oblivious to the (failed) plot on his life).
- Killed Mid-Sentence: A character is fatally stabbed, and sings for several minutes before dying in the middle of a sentence.
- Kill the Cutie: Gilda was waaaaay too cute and naive for her own sake.
- Kill the Ones You Love: Rigoletto ends up causing the death of his own daughter while trying to avenge her honor.
- Ladykiller in Love:
- The Duke tries to imply this about Gilda. He does seem genuinely concerned when he discovers she's been kidnapped. (At first, that is.)
- The opera cuts their reunion scene - in the original play, Le roi s'amuse, the King of France (the Duke's counterpart) happily proclaims his love for Blanche (Gilda) and promises she'll be his queen... and doesn't understand at all why Blanche is upset that this means being his mistress, not his wife.
- Love Martyr: Gilda, who takes the Duke's place when the assassin shows up.
- Lyrical Dissonance: Invoked in 'La ra, la ra' - Rigoletto hums a happy tune to hide his anguish.
- Meaningful Name: Rigoletto (from the French rigoler, "to laugh") is the court jester, Sparafucile (from the Italian, spara, "shoot," and fucile, "rifle") is a hitman.
- Missing Mom: Gilda's mother died somehow. It isn't particularly explained.
- Monster Clown: Rigoletto is neither cheerful nor good-looking. And his story? Pure drama.
- Rape as Drama
- Take a Third Option: Sparafucile decides to kill the first man to get in his way so he neither will "break" his deal with Rigoletto, nor tear his sister's heart via killing her lover. Sorry, Gilda.
- Tenor Boy: Playing Against Type. While tenors are typically male ingenues and play The Hero, The Duke is at best morally gray, at worst the Big Bad.
- The Ugly Guy's Hot Daughter: Gilda, again. Also implied with Count Monterone's (unseen) daughter.
- Villain Song: "La Donna e Mobile", the Duke's self-justification for forcing himself on every fickle woman he meets.
- Wholesome Crossdresser: Gilda dies because she invoked this voluntarily, disguising herself as a boy to save the Duke from Sparafucile.