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Synopsis by Robert Carsen

Act I

During a ball at the Duke of Mantova’s, the latter confesses to his friend Borsa his desire to seduce a young girl he has seen in church. But his attention goes to all women, including the spouse of Count Ceprano. Rigoletto, the Duke’s court jester, overtly encourages him to get rid of the unwanted husband, which makes Ceprano furious. As for Marullo, he announces to everyone an astonishing discovery, namely that Rigoletto would have a mistress. Ceprano sticks to his revenge: that very same night he will abduct the mistress in question. The ball is cut short by Count Monterone, who accuses the Duke of having dishonoured his daughter. Rigoletto’s persistent mockeries lead Monterone to curse him. 

Tormented by the curse, the jester goes back home. On his way, he meets Sparafucile, a hitman who offers him his services. Left to himself, Rigoletto compares both professions: the hitman uses his sword where the jester uses his word. He then meets up with his daughter Gilda, whom he forbids to leave the house except to go to church. Gilda questions him in vain on his past and her mother’s death. Rigoletto, as he believes he hears some noise, goes out in the street. It is the Duke, who has come to spy on the mysterious unknown young woman and who now understands that she is his jester’s daughter. Rigoletto comes back to take leave of his daughter. Gilda then confesses to her governess Giovanna that she has met a very seductive young man in church. The Duke appears, declares his love, passing himself off as a student named Gualtier Maldè, and then leaves. Gilda dreams of her beloved, whereas as Ceprano, Borsa and the other courtiers are watching her, believing she is Rigoletto’s mistress. The latter chances upon them, as he retraces his steps. They claim they pretend they want to abduct Ceprano’s wife. Rigoletto accepts to wear a mask and takes part in the abduction only to enable the courtiers to flee with Gilda. The jester understands too late that he has been tricked and believes it to be the effect of Monterone’s curse. 

Act II

The Duke is lamenting that the young woman he coveted has been abducted. The courtiers reassure him however: they are the ones who abducted Rigoletto’s mistress. Consumed by desire, the Duke goes to meet with Gilda. Feigning indifference when he is actually in despair, Rigoletto starts to search for his daughter. As he understands she is with the Duke, he discloses she is his daughter and begs the courtiers to give her back. Gilda then appears and throws herself in her father’s arms. Once alone with Rigoletto, she confesses she is in love with the Duke. A court usher interrupts the confidences, announcing that Monterone is arrested and will be jailed. Rigoletto offers him his vengeance. 


Determined to show his daughter the true nature of her seducer, Rigoletto obliges her to watch him court Maddalena, the sister of Sparafucile. To carry out his vengeance, the jester, together with Sparafucile, plots the Duke’s assassination and then demands of Gilda that she leave the city. When the Duke falls asleep, Maddalena begs his brother to spare him. Sparafucile ends up accepting on the condition however that another victim falls under his sword. Gilda has overheard their discussion and offers to sacrifice herself out of love. She knocks on the door and Sparafucile stabs her just before Rigoletto arrives to find the body. The jester rejoices in his vengeance and sets out to rid himself of the corpse he has been delivered in a sack. In the distance, the Duke’s voice can be heard. Rigoletto then discovers his daughter’s body who dies in his arms: he cries out, horrified, “La maledizione!” (The Curse!) 

Program and cast

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June 2019
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Andrei Golubev
© Andrei Golubev
Andrei Golubev
© Andrei Golubev
Andrei Golubev
© Andrei Golubev

Bolshoi Theatre

On 28 March (17 according to the old style) 1776, Catherine II granted the prosecutor, Prince Pyotr Urusov, the "privilege" of "maintaining" theatre performances of all kinds, including masquerades, balls and other forms of entertainment, for a period of ten years. And it is from this date that Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre traces its history.

The Bolshoi building, which for many years now has been regarded as one of Moscow’s main sights, was opened on 20 October 1856, on Tsar Alexander II’s coronation day.

On 29 October 2002 the Bolshoi was given a New Stage and it was here it presented its performances during the years the Historic Stage was undergoing massive reconstruction and refurbishment.

The reconstruction project lasted from l July 2005 to 28 October 2011. As a result of this reconstruction, many lost features of the historic building were reinstated and, at the same time, it has joined the ranks of most technically equipped theatre buildings in the world.

The Bolshoi Theatre is a symbol of Russia for all time. It was awarded this honor due to the major contribution it made to the history of the Russian performing arts. This history is on-going and today Bolshoi Theatre artists continue to contribute to it many bright pages.


An inherent part of the Theatre’s activities is the presentation of concerts of symphony and chamber works, and of operas in concert performance, thus acquainting the public with works of all music genres. 

Now that the Bolshoi Theatre has two stages at its disposal, one of them its legendary Historic Stage which is at last back in action again, it hopes to fulfill its mission with an even greater degree of success, steadily extending the sphere of its influence at home and throughout the world.


The Bolshoi has to a large extent reacquired its authentic historical appearance, lost during the years of Soviet power. The auditorium and part of its suite of halls now look as they were originally conceived by Bolshoi Theatre architect Alberto Cavos. While the former imperial foyer halls have been given back their 1895 decor, this was the year they were redecorated for Emperor Nicholas II’s coronation celebrations. Each reproduced or restored element of interior decoration was made the object of a special project for which separate documentation was collected based on numerous archival and on-site researches.

In 2010 the auditorium suite of halls were renovated: the Lobby, the Main or the White Foyer, the Choral, Exhibition, Round and Beethoven halls. Muscovites were able to admire the restored facades and the renovated symbol of the Bolshoi Theatre — the famous Apollo quadriga, created by the sculptor Peter Klodt.

The auditorium has regained its original beauty. And, just like the 19th century theatergoer, so each member of the public today will be dazzled by its extravagant and at the same time “light” décor. The bright crimson, scattered with gold, draping of the interiors of the boxes, the different on each level stucco arabesques, the Apollo and the Muses plafond — all this contributes to the auditorium’s breath-taking impact.

Special attention was paid to the restoration of the legendary acoustics. International experts did extensive research work and made sure all their technical recommendations were carried out to the letter.

State of the art machinery has been installed in the stagehouse. The Bolshoi Theatre Historic stage now consists of seven two-tier rising and descending platforms. These platforms can easily change their positions, thus the stage can become horizontal, raked or stepped. The stage and backstage area can be united which creates a stage space of incredible depth.

New upper stage equipment, remotely controlled by computer, makes it possible to derive maximum use from lighting, sound and visual effects. Cutting edge rigs have been installed for the deployment of lanterns, special effects apparatus and acoustics. 

The orchestra pit has been provided with extra space under the forestage. This makes it one of the biggest orchestra pits in the world seating up to 130 musicians, which is necessary for the performance of such large-scale works as, for instance, Wagner operas.

The installation of state of the art stage equipment was a unique world-scale project. The reconstruction has doubled the Theatre’s total floor space. Thanks to the expansion of the Theatre’s existing underground spaces (under stagehouse) and to the construction of new underground space under Theatre Square, this has been achieved without any change to the Theatre’s external appearance.

Thus the Theatre has acquired badly needed new space, including an underground concert and rehearsal room, which has inherited its name from the Beethoven Hall, under the Theatre lobby. This hall is a multi-functional space which can be used in different ways. It consists of five main platforms: the central platform is the stage itself, two platforms to the right and left of it can be used either to increase the size of the stage or as audience space. The two remaining platforms form the main space of the auditorium. All of the platforms can be raised to foyer level to create a space for holding formal, receptions. Apart from this concert hall and its auxiliary premises, the rest of the underground space under Theatre Square accommodates a large number of technical, service and staff rooms.

The Bolshoi Theatre reconstruction project also included the renovation of the Khomyakov House, a protected architectural monument of the first half of the nineteenth century situated immediately behind the Bolshoi, which has been transformed into a service wing. Due to numerous 20th century reconstructions, the historical interiors of the Khomyakov House have been totally lost. While its main walls have been preserved, the interior layout has been redesigned to meet the Theatre’s present-day requirements. Thus the Khomaykov House, which is linked to the main Bolshoi Theatre building by an underground tunnel, is a key element in the gigantic Bolshoi Theatre complex.

The renovation of the country’s main stage was a landmark event in the lives of a large coordinated team of highest-level professionals. Participating in the project were uniquely qualified specialists whose great feat of labor will earn them the undying gratitude of present-day Bolshoi Theatre audiences.



Mokhovaya Street

If you are on Mokhovaya Street keep driving straight ahead, not turning off it, till you reach Theatre Square where the Bolshoi Theatre is situated.

Tverskaya Street

If you are moving down Tverskaya, in the direction of the centre, you will automatically find yourself on Teatralnyi Proezd Street leading to the Bolshoi Theatre.

Petrovka Street

If you are on the Petrovka, which is a one-way street, you will be able to drive right up to the Theatre.


Take the metro to Teatralnaya (Bolshoi Theatre exit) or Okhotnyi ryad (Theatre Square exit).

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