Antonio Albanese makes his debut as director of Rigoletto

After twelve years, the 100th Arena di Verona Opera Festival 2023 offers a second new production in the same season: in addition to the opening production, Aida, there will be an all-new Rigoletto that will be an homage to the great Italian neo-realist cinema of the 1950s

Sets by Guillermo Nova, lighting by Paolo Mazzon and a star-studded cast for each of the four unrepeatable evenings directed by Marco Armiliato: a foursome of leading figures with baritones Roman Burdenko, Ludovic Tézier, Luca Salsi, and Amartuvshin Enkhbat, as well as luxury debuts by Nina Minasyan, Nadine Sierra, Yusif Eyvazov, Juan Diego Flórez, and Piotr Beczała

"My best opera!" This is how Giuseppe Verdi defined Rigoletto, after defying censorship and winning over audiences halfway across Europe, including Victor Hugo, author of the scandalous drama Le Roi s'amuse, translated into music by Verdi with verses by his trusted librettist, Piave. For a masterpiece of musical theatre of all time, which has never been out of the repertoire since it premiered in Venice in 1851, Fondazione Arena has decided to look to a man from contemporary theatre (and Italian cinema), calling upon Antonio Albanese, award-winning actor and director who has already staged opera productions at La Scala in Milan, the Lirico in Cagliari, the Petruzzelli in Bari and the Filarmonico in Verona, among others, to direct. Rigoletto will be his grand debut in the thousand-year-old Veronese amphitheatre. Albanese will be accompanied by a creative team of world-renowned experts for this brand new staging: Juan Guillermo Nova for the sets and Paolo Mazzon for lighting. Rigoletto is the seventh most performed title in the Festival's history, with 102 performances in ten different productions over sixteen summers until 2017, all of them in historical and traditional style. This production comes exactly twenty years after the last one, which reconstructed the sketches from 1928. It is also the first occasion since 2011 on which the Arena di Verona has staged a second new production at the same Festival. 

On the huge stage at the Arena, the story of Rigoletto will be told in a new, authentic, and fascinating form, emphasising the dramatic force of the situations and the relationships between characters, but also keeping the characters in tune with the zeitgeist. In fact, the story will be set in the Polesine of the 1950s, part of that rural plain where Verdi was born and chose to live, which later became the setting for great Italian cinema, from Fellini to Pupi Avati. The entire production will be a tribute to Italy’s post-war neo-realist cinema, a season in which deep wounds coexist with the desire for rebirth. The power dynamic between the Duke - here a great landowner, who is admired, feared and envied by his people - and his subordinate Rigoletto, a jester chosen for his wit among the many sharecroppers, peasants and humble people the master disposes of (and abuses), does not change. Dark nights in the countryside become the silent backdrop for secret meetings, love affairs and dark murders, as per the libretto.

 “It is a real honour for me to deal with the most dramatic court jester”, says director Antonio Albanese. “I see Rigoletto as an impetuous opera, capable of exalting passion and love, revenge and power. Animating and setting this masterpiece inside the Arena di Verona, and on top of that, for the 100th anniversary of this unique space in the world, makes me very happy. I will try to exalt this poignant story, working with genuine devotion and passion, and promising myself and others not to take possession of the work.”

The four performances from 1 July to 4 August bring together a star-studded cast, starting with the main character, played by some of today's most sought-after baritones: Roman Burdenko, Ludovic Tézier, Luca Salsi - none of whom has ever tackled this role in Verona - and Amartuvshin Enkhbat, who made his Arena debut in Rigoletto in 2017. The much-loved daughter, Gilda is interpreted by two specialists, Armenian soprano Nina Minasyan - already an acclaimed Violetta - and the American Nadine Sierra, who will make her Arena stage debut on 4 August after a concert appearance nine years ago. There is no shortage of surprises on the tenor front either: Azerbaijani Yusif Eyvazov, a long-standing friend of the Arena, who has also chosen to take on challenging new characters, will play the Duke for the first time in the performances on 1 and 7 July; in addition to him on one date each, two different and prestigious Dukes, Juan Diego Flórez and Piotr Beczała, will make their long-awaited debut in the Amphitheatre. The roles of Sparafucile and Maddalena, siblings in (mis)deeds, are no less impressive: Arena debut for bass Gianluca Buratto and confirmation for young mezzo-soprano Valeria Girardello. Experts and talented young players come together in the supporting roles: Agostina Smimmero (Giovanna), Gianfranco Montresor (Monterone), Nicolò Ceriani (Marullo), Riccardo Rados (Borsa), Matteo Ferrara and Francesca Maionchi (Count and Countess Ceprano), Giorgi Manoshvili (usher), Elisabetta Zizzo (page). Conducting the international cast, as well as the Orchestra of the Fondazione Arena di Verona and its male choir, prepared by Ulisse Trabacchin, will be Maestro Marco Armiliato, Music Director of the last Festival. 

“We chose a narrative for Rigoletto that was both near and distant, clear but intriguing”, explains Cecilia Gasdia, Superintendent and Artistic Director of the Fondazione Arena di Verona, “a vaguely familiar recent past. Verdi used Hugo, Shakespeare, Schiller and Dumas to speak to the audience of his time. As he wrote, his everyday qualities infiltrated the most romantic subjects and the most archetypal characters to give them new life, 'inventing a truth' that is more powerful than any imitation. The successful expedient of 'La donna è mobile' is an example of this: a melody that immediately sticks in the mind. The story goes that Verdi asked for the utmost reserve so that it would not come out of rehearsals - not even hummed - and it is sung by a powerful man in a tavern, the noblest character in the playbill who mixes with the humble folk for his own ends. And the protagonist, the deepest, most complex character, is also the most socially marginalised: a very modern anti-hero.”

“This Rigoletto is part of a wide and diversified artistic programme”, concludes Stefano Trespidi, Deputy Artistic Director of the Fondazione Arena, “on the one hand we have six productions that are six great classics, a genuine anthology of visions and ways of understanding opera in the Arena over the last thirty years, with masterpieces by masters such as de Bosio, Zeffirelli, and de Ana; on the other hand, not as an antithesis but a completion of the same offer, we have the freshness of new productions of Aida and Rigoletto, intended to offer alternative looks and to appeal to the widest possible audience. The Arena, like opera, belongs to everyone and is for everyone.” 

Rigoletto is just one of the titles in the rich and eagerly awaited programme of the Festival at the Arena, an event that attracts hundreds of thousands of spectators from all over the world every year, a resource for the city and the territory, and this year reaching its 100th edition. The programme represents an unprecedented artistic and productive effort: the 100th Festival 2023 can count 49 unmissable evenings from 16 June to 9 September, in which no fewer than 8 opera titles and 5 gala evenings with Roberto Bolle, Juan Diego Flórez, Plácido Domingo, Jonas Kaufmann, the Orchestra and Chorus of the Teatro alla Scala conducted by Riccardo Chailly will be performed in the same season. 

The 100th Arena di Verona Opera Festival 2023 is jointly sponsored by the Ministry of Culture and the Veneto Region. 

The Fondazione Arena di Verona would like to express its sincere thanks to all Festival partners and sponsors. First of all, we would like to thank major partners UniCredit, Calzedonia, Pastificio Giovanni Rana, Volkswagen Group Italia, DB BAHN, RTL 102.5, then Official sponsors Veronafiere, Air Dolomiti, A4 Holding, Casa Sartori, SABA Italia, SDG Group and Vicenzi , and our Cultural Partner Palazzo Maffei. Obviously, thanks are also due to the companies, private individuals, and professional associations that make up the ranks of the Membership of 67 Columns for the Arena di Verona, now in its third year. 




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1, 7, 20 July at 9:00 p.m.

4 August at 8:45 p.m.



by Giuseppe Verdi

Melodrama in three acts. 

Libretto by Francesco Maria Piave 


Director Antonio Albanese *
Set design Juan Guillermo Nova *
Lightning Paolo Mazzon
Conductor Marco Armiliato
The Duke of Mantua Yusif Eyvazov 1, 7/7  
Juan Diego Flórez 20/7 *

Piotr Beczała 4/8 *
Rigoletto Roman Burdenko 1/7
Ludovic Tézier 7/7 
Luca Salsi 20/7
Amartuvshin Enkhbat 4/8 
Gilda Gilda Nina Minasyan 1, 7, 20/7 
Nadine Sierra 4/8  
Sparafucile Gianluca Buratto 
Maddalena Valeria Girardello
Giovanna Agostina Smimmero 
Count Monterone Gianfranco Montresor
Marullo Nicolò Ceriani
Matteo Borsa Riccardo Rados
Count Ceprano Matteo Ferrara *
Countess Ceprano Francesca Maionchi
Courtier Giorgi Manoshvili 
Duchess' Page  Elisabetta Zizzo
  * Debut at the Arena di Verona

Orchestra, Choir and Technicians of the Fondazione Arena di Verona

Choirmaster Ulisse Trabacchin



100th Arena di Verona Opera Festival 2023

from 16 June to 9 September




by Giuseppe Verdi | Directed by Stefano Poda | NEW PRODUCTION

16, 17, 25, 29 June at  21.15 | 9, 16, 21, 30 July at 9:00 p.m.

2, 18, 23 August at8:45 p.m. | 3 , 8 September at8.45 p.m.


by Georges Bizet | Direction Franco Zeffirelli

23 June at  9:15 p.m.| 6 July at 9:00 p.m.

11, 24 Augustat8:45 p.m.| 6 Septemberat8:45 p.m.

Il Barbiere di Siviglia

by Gioachino Rossini | Directed by Hugo de Ana

24, 30 June at  9:15 p.m.| 13, 22 July at 9:00 p.m.


by Giuseppe Verdi | Directed by Antonio Albanese | NEW PRODUCTION

1, 7, 20 July at 9:00 p.m.| 4 August at 8:45 p.m.

La Traviata

by Giuseppe Verdi | Direction Franco Zeffirelli

8, 14, 27 July at 9:00 p.m.| 19, 26 August at  8:45 p.m.| 9 September at 8:45 p.m.


by Giuseppe Verdi | Directed by Gianfranco de Bosio

15, 28 July at 9:00 p.m.| 3, 17 August at 8:45 p.m.

Roberto Bolle and Friends

19 July at 9:15 p.m.

Juan Diego Flórez in Opera-Arena 100

23 July at 9:00 p.m.


by Giacomo Puccini | Directed by Hugo de Ana

29 July at 9:00 p.m.| 5, 10 August at  8:45 p.m.| 1 September at 8:45 p.m.

Plácido Domingo in Opera-Arena 100

6 August at 9:00 p.m.


Madama Butterfly

by Giacomo Puccini | Direction Franco Zeffirelli

12, 25 August at8:45 p.m. | 2 , 7 September at8.45 p.m.

Jonas Kaufmann in Opera-Arena 100

20 August at 9:00 p.m.

Teatro alla Scala at Arena di Verona

31 August at 21:00


Soci Fondatori e Partner

Founding Members

Major Partner Arena di Verona Opera Festival