Opera Stories: Revenge Gone Wrong

A man in a dark, hooded cloak cradles the body of a female with long, brown hair that is wrapped in a brown cloth.
Baritone Gordon Hawkins as the title character in Opera Colorado’s 2014 production of Rigoletto.
Photo: Opera Colorado/Matthew Staver

By: Jennifer Colgan

People often say, “revenge is sweet.” There is nothing more satisfying than seeing the bad guy get his just desserts. Opera is full of satisfying revenge stories, from Elektra’s bloody retribution against her father’s murderers to the wives of Windsor duping Falstaff. But what happens when those just desserts aren’t so sweet? Opera has plenty of revenge stories that fit that bill, including Verdi’s Rigoletto, on stage at the Ellie starting November 5.

As part of its 40th Anniversary Season, Opera Colorado presents Rigoletto November 5-13. Tickets are on sale now, starting at just $39>>

Tosca: Revenge Too Late

A woman in an opulent, burgundy velvet gown stands over the body of a man in a white shirt and black vest, with two candlesticks carefully placed on either side of him.
Soprano Melissa Citro as the title character in Opera Colorado’s 2021 production of Tosca.
Photo: Opera Colorado/Matthew Staver

You don’t have to go too far back in Opera Colorado’s history for a revenge story without a happy ending—Puccini’s Tosca, which opened our 2021-22 Season. You can read about the characters and plot of Tosca here, and one of the opera’s most memorable moments is when Tosca stabs Baron Scarpia as revenge for his betrayal, hoping that this will allow her to escape with her love, Cavaradossi. But her revenge comes too late; Scarpia has already guaranteed Cavaradossi’s execution, and upon witnessing it, Tosca leaps to her death from the roof of the Castel Sant’Angelo.

Il trovatore: Mixed-Up Revenge

A woman wearing a black head scarf and red cloth around her waist, both embellished with coins, along with a flowing black dress, kneels over a bench in anguish.
Nancy Maultsby as Azucena in Opera Colorado’s 2012 production of Il trovatore.
Photo: Opera Colorado/Matthew Staver

Another opera revenge story gone wrong is a classic by the composer of Rigoletto, Giuseppe VerdiIl trovatore. You might know the thunderous “Anvil Chorus” from this opera, a melodramatic tale of passion and deadly mistakes. Azucena’s mother was accused of cursing the Count of Luna’s son and subsequently executed. Azucena sets out to murder the Count’s son in revenge and is so blind with rage that she accidentally kills her own child instead.

Listen to Azucena recount her mother’s death and swear vengeance (courtesy of Metropolitan  Opera)>>

Rigoletto: Cursed Revenge

Rigoletto, written just before Il trovatore, is one of opera’s most well-known stories of revenge gone wrong. Rigoletto’s daughter, Gilda, is the only thing good in his life. When he sees the adulterous Duke of Mantua’s gaze set on her, he vows revenge and hires a hit man to murder the duke. What follows is an unfortunate series of misunderstandings and sacrifices that result in the death of Gilda instead of the duke.

Read more about the plot and characters of Rigoletto.>>

Whether you like a good revenge story or love the sound and spectacle of grand opera, join us and see the drama unfold when Verdi’s Rigoletto is on stage for four performances only this fall.


What is your favorite revenge story from opera, theater, TV, or film? Let us know in the comments below!

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