|It could have happened here...|
Here's the story of Rigoletto from the Met Opera website:
ACT I. Mantua, 1500s. At his palace, the Duke lightheartedly boasts to his courtiers of amorous conquests, escorting Countess Ceprano, his latest prize, to a private chamber as his hunchback jester, Rigoletto, makes fun of her husband. Marullo announces that Rigoletto is suspected of keeping a mistress, and Ceprano plots with the courtiers to punish the hated buffoon. Attention is diverted when Monterone, an elderly nobleman, enters to denounce the Duke for seducing his daughter. Ridiculed by Rigoletto and placed under arrest, Monterone pronounces a curse on both the Duke and his jester.
On his way home that night, Rigoletto broods on Monterone's curse. Rejecting the services offered by Sparafucile, a professional assassin, he notes that the word can be as deadly as the dagger. Greeted by his daughter, Gilda, whom he keeps hidden from the world, he reminisces about his late wife, then warns the governess, Giovanna, to admit no one. But as Rigoletto leaves, the Duke slips into the garden, tossing a purse to Giovanna to keep her quiet. The nobleman declares his love to Gilda, who has noticed him in church. He tells her he is a poor student named Gualtier Maldè, but at the sound of footsteps he rushes away. Tenderly repeating his name, Gilda retires. Meanwhile, the courtiers stop Rigoletto outside his house and ask him to help abduct Ceprano's wife, who lives across the way. The jester is duped into wearing a blindfold and holding a ladder against his own garden wall. The courtiers break into his home and carry off Gilda. Rigoletto, hearing her cry for help, tears off his blindfold and rushes into the house, discovering only her scarf. He remembers Monterone's curse.
|Part of the Palazzo of the Dukes of Mantua|
ACT II. In his palace, the Duke is distraught over the disappearance of Gilda. When his courtiers return, saying it is they who have taken her and that she is now in his bedchamber, he joyfully rushes off to the conquest. Soon Rigoletto enters, warily looking for Gilda; the courtiers bar his way, though they are astonished to learn the girl is not his mistress but his daughter. The jester reviles them, then embraces the disheveled Gilda as she runs in to tell of her courtship and abduction. As Monterone is led to the dungeon, Rigoletto vows to avenge them both.
ACT III. At night, outside Sparafucile's run-down inn on the outskirts of town, Rigoletto and Gilda watch as the Duke flirts with the assassin's sister and accomplice, Maddalena. Rigoletto sends his daughter off to disguise herself as a boy for her escape to Verona, then pays Sparafucile to murder the Duke. As a storm rages, Gilda returns to hear Maddalena persuade her brother to kill not the Duke but the next visitor to the inn instead. Resolving to sacrifice herself for the Duke, despite his betrayal, Gilda enters the inn and is stabbed. Rigoletto comes back to claim the body and gloats over the sack Sparafucile gives him, only to hear his supposed victim singing in the distance. Frantically cutting open the sack, he finds Gilda, who dies asking forgiveness. Monterone's curse is fulfilled.
|Labyrinth Ceiling in the Duke's Palace|
Quoting Wikipedia on the interesting Ducal Palace:
The Palazzo Ducale di Mantova ("Ducal Palace") is a group of buildings in Mantua, Lombardy, northern Italy, built between the 14th and the 17th century mainly by the noble family of Gonzaga as their royal residence in the capital of their Duchy. The buildings are connected by corridors and galleries and are enriched by inner courts and wide gardens. The complex includes some 500 rooms and occupies an area of c. 34,000 m². Although most famous for Mantegna's frescos in the Camera degli Sposi (Wedding Room), they have many other very significant architectural and painted elements.
The Gonzaga family lived in the palace from 1328 to 1707, when the dynasty died out. Subsequently, the buildings saw a sharp decline, which was halted in the 20th century with a continuing process of restoration and the designation of the area as museum. In 1998, a hidden room was discovered by Palace scholars, led by musicologist Paula Bezzutti. The room is thought to have been used for performances of Monteverdi's music in the late 16th century.
Sadly, the Montegna fescoes in the Camera di Sposi were not on view when I visited, as they are in a section of the Palazzo closed due to damage from an earthquake nearby, which occurred in May 2012.
The basilica of Sant' Andrea was also seriously affected by the earthquake, and the whole of its huge dome is shrouded in scaffolding for the foreseeable future. The church is an important example of 15th century renaissance architecture - as Wiki tells us:
Commissioned by Ludovico II Gonzaga, the church was begun in 1462 according to designs by Leon Battista Alberti on a site occupied by a Benedictine monastery, of which the bell tower (1414) remains. The building, however, was finished only 328 years later. Though later changes and expansions altered Alberti’s design, the church is still considered to be one of Alberti's most complete works.
|Basilica Sant' Andrea, Mantua|
|The porch of the Basilica|
But excitingly, the real drawcard of the basilica remains, kept quietly in its crypt - though since the dome area is out of bounds, you can't peer down on it through the special hole in the floor. Yes - the Basilica is home to a Relic of the Holy Blood. Ye cats:
The purpose of the new building was to contain the pilgrims who visited it during the feast of Ascension when a vial, that the faithful argue contains the Blood of Christ, is brought up from the crypt below through a hole in the floor directly under the dome. The relic, called Preziosissimo Sangue di Cristo ("Most Precious Blood of Christ"), is preserved in the Sacred Vessels, according to the tradition was brought to Mantua by the Roman centurion Longinus. It was highly venerated during the Renaissance. The shrines are displayed only on the Good Friday, to the faithful and then brought out along the streets of Mantua in a procession.
|Renaissance Clock - tells seasons and moon phases, and...|
|Inside the oldest church in Mantua - Gilda, are you there?|
|The oldest church in Mantua (dug up recently)|
|Mantua facade - a rich merchant's house. Gosh.|