In Victor Hugo’s luxuriant drama Le Roi s’amuse, Verdi found theatre worthy of Shakespeare. Such, at least, were his enthusiastic words when he urged his librettist Piave to scour all Venice to find someone with sufficient influence to get his new opera past the censors unscathed. Alas, conventional morality rose up in protest and it proved impossible. Verdi’s hunchbacked jester is one of the most complex and tormented figures in the entire operatic repertoire: monstrous and heartbreaking, grotesque and sublime, this tragically doomed father who seeks to save his daughter from the clutches of the duke, will be the one to kill her. The role reaches its apogee in the aria “Cortigiani, vil razza dannata”, in which the descending movement, from Rigoletto’s explosion of rage to his begging, confirms Verdi’s capacity to adapt traditional bel canto to the demands of theatrical verisimilitude. This is director Claus Guth’s first production for the Paris Opera.