Gallery & Synopsis
Francesco Maria Piave
The Gonzago Club on the South Side of Chicago during the roaring 1920s prohibition era.
“The Duke,” the mayor of the Southside Chicago neighborhood of Mantua is hosting a party at the famous underground speakeasy, The Gonzago Club. He is eyeing and taking delight in the many beautiful women in attendance. After spotting an exceptionally beautiful girl, one he has never known, he makes it his mission to seduce her. He also seeks companionship with Mrs. Ceprano, even though she is married. Rigoletto, the manager and headlining entertainer of the Gonzago Club and “The Duke's” right-hand man, begins to mock and make fun of the men at the club, including her husband Ceprano. He tells “The Duke” to either imprison or kill him, allowing him the freedom of being with whomever he pleases.
Marullo informs the underbosses that Rigoletto has a lover. The underbosses cannot believe that Rigoletto could be capable of this, so they turn the tables and begin mocking him and devise a plan to humiliate him. Retired underboss Monterone, a gangster from an earlier era, barges in accusing “The Duke” of seducing his daughter. The sharp-tongued Rigoletto begins to ridicule him before “The Duke” orders his arrest. As Monterone is escorted out of the club, he curses both “The Duke” and Rigoletto.
Shaken by the words, Rigoletto makes his way home. He runs into a hit-man named Sparafucile, and the two men converse. Sparafucile offers his services. Rigoletto refuses Sparafucile's assistance at the moment but leaves it open for a later time. After Sparafucile leaves, Rigoletto comments how his words are as sharp as Sparafulcile’s weapons. As he arrives home, his daughter Gilda, warmly welcomes him. Rigoletto has kept her existence a secret, even from “The Duke.” She only leaves the house to go to church and doesn't know what her father does or even his name.
After Rigoletto leaves, Gilda describes a young man she saw in the church to her housekeeper, Giovanna, and tells her she has fallen for him. She confesses her guilt for not telling her father. Gilda tells Giovanna that she would love him even more if he were a poor student. Outside of the apartment building, “The Duke” overhears the conversation. He finds a way to separate the two women before making his entrance. “The Duke” enters the apartment and startles her. He tells her he is a poor student named Gualtier Maldè and confesses his love to her. Gilda is overjoyed, but quickly sends him away at the sound of approaching footsteps. “The Duke” quickly exits out the fire escape and Gilda waits for her father to enter.
Outside on the street, instead of Rigoletto returning home, it is the underbosses. Suspecting the young girl inside to be Rigoletto's lover, they craft a plan to abduct her. The men trick Rigoletto into helping them by telling him that they are abducting Mrs. Ceprano. Rigoletto excitedly offers his help. They blindfold him and lead him back to his apartment. As he waits outside, still blindfolded, the men break into apartment and kidnap Gilda. As Gilda screams, Rigoletto tears off his blindfold and runs into the apartment. Seeing that she is gone, he falls on his knees, remembers Monterone's curse.
Inside the Gonzago Club, “The Duke” in concerned that Gilda has disappeared. However, his fears subside when the men who kidnapped her arrive claiming to have stolen Rigoletto’s mistress. By the description he knows this is Gilda and runs off into the storeroom where she is being held. Rigoletto arrives not long after, happily singing as an attempt to disguise his anguish. The underbosses begin tormenting, laughing, and mocking him. The Maitre’d enters and tells them that “The Duke’s” wife wants to speak to him on the telephone. They tell her that he is suggestively busy and can’t be disturbed. Finally, Rigoletto breaks down and confesses that Gilda is his daughter. The men do not believe him and taunt him for being completely mad. They release her and she rushes into her father's arms. Rigoletto demands that the underbosses leave and they disperse. She tells Rigoletto of the events that have taken place and he tries to console her.
Monterone enters and is quickly arrested. Before he is led out he states that his curse had no effect on “The Duke”. Rigoletto disagrees and he swears vengeance on who has offended his honor. Gilda, however, pleads mercy for “The Duke.”
Rigoletto and Gilda travel to the outskirts of the seedy part of the city to find Sparafucile. Before entering his run-down butcher shop, Rigoletto and Gilda overhear “The Duke” inside flirting with Sprafucile's sister, Maddalena. While singing the famous aria "La donna è mobile" ("All women are fickle"), Gilda laments that “The Duke” is unfaithful. Rigoletto instructs Gilda to disguise herself in men's clothing and escape to South Bend. When she complies, he tells her he will not be far behind. Gilda changes into her disguise and sets out on her trip.
Rigoletto enters the shop and makes a deal with Sparafucile to kill “The Duke.” After the deal is completed he leaves. A violent storm rolls in and “The Duke” decides to stay there for the night. He is told to retire to their upstairs apartment. Gilda returns to the shop, unable to abandon the unfaithful “Duke.” She hears Maddalena's pleas to spare “The Duke's” life. Sparafucile agrees to spare his life and to kill the next man to walk through the door in order to dupe Rigoletto.
Gilda is resolved to sacrifice her life for his, and walks through the door. She is stabbed immediately. Sparafucile wraps the lifeless body in a sheet and shows it to Rigoletto. Rigoletto hands over his payment and happily begins to carry the body out of the shop to dispose of it. He hears the voice of “The Duke” upstairs. Rigoletto opens the sheet and is horrified at the sight. Gilda, with one last breath of life, revives. She tells her father that she gladly dies for her beloved and asks for his forgiveness. Sadly, she dies in his arms. Rigoletto cries out in horror the words of Monterone's curse.