Greatest Moments In Italian Opera, Verdi’s “La Donna E Mobile” From Rigoletto

Published: 17th May 2010
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An article about an aria I wish to recommend to my friend and opera apprentice, Misha-Lame; from South Africa.

The aria "La Donna E Mobile" from Verdi's opera Rigoletto is one of the merriest melodies ever written as there is a carefree feeling to it of the rich duke Mantua and his attitude toward the many women he has seduced. He being one whose wealth and spirit lend themselves to the life of one who does nothing but go about seeking enjoyment from as many women as may cross his path with intensions of sharing in his desires for carnal pleasure. "La Donna E Mobile" (meaning "woman is capricious") being duke Mantua's motto in life, as its words indicate in the form "woman is capricious like a feather in the wind, full of accent in her thoughts, always a kind lovely face, he who trusts her will always be miserable yet he who does not will never know love" yet it is in the music that one can feel the person this character is. It being a music that captures the essence of a man capable of falling in love with the ease of a gaze in any direction that might include a lady to match his taste.

As for the story of Rigoletto, it is the narrative of a hunchback who lends his name to the opera and his relationship with his daughter, Gilda whom he wishes to protect from her lover, duke Mantua. It being he who Rigoletto does not approve of for his daughter, giving his womanizing ways yet he is unable to convince his daughter that perhaps her interests are not best served in her romance with him. Rigoletto on the one hand is a protective father yet some might say that he is overly, as he takes it upon himself to have the man his daughter claims to love assassinated by a hired killer named Sparafucile. Of course in all this one could also say that Rigoletto feels hurt upon his pride as he sees a member of the upper classes taking advantage of his beloved daughter, Gilda.

Gilda however for her part though she does not always approve of duke Mantua, is madly enamored with him as he represents everything to her in ways of love that lead her to forgive all his faults that include, infidelity. This being a clear example of what she witness when spying on him with her father, Rigoletto who points out to her how she is far from being the only woman in his life. Gilda however despite seeing duke Mantua in the company of another women as he sings "La Donna E Mobile" does not loose her affection for him and even sacrifices her own life so that she might save his. This being what she does when she substitutes herself for duke Mantua, whom Sparafucile believes he has killed when in fact he has assassinated Gilda instead.

It being afterwards that Sparafucile delivers on to Rigoletto, Gilda's body in a sack, whom Rigoletto at the time believes to be that of duke Mantua yet it is as he is contemplating how he has had his enemy killed that he hears from a distance the aria "La Donna E Mobile" being sung by the man he believes to be dead. It is the sound of this very aria and the voice he hears singing it that fills Rigoletto with horror, for if that is duke Mantua who sings it then who could the person in the sack be? It is with dread that Rigoletto looks in the sack to discover that the person he thought was his dead enemy was the body of his daughter, Gilda who has not yet died but does so in his arms as he realizes that he has done none other than have his own daughter; whom he claimed to love executed.

I, for my part would say that the aria "La Donna E Mobile" is one of the typical lady's man. As there is a certain air of confidence about it of one who takes to the conquest of many a woman yet is fully aware that like men; they too are subject to fickle changes that can cause hurt; specially for he who takes to the ways of love too deeply. Rigoletto however comes to see this aria as one that mocks him and his daughter, whom duke Mantua has shared carnal knowledge with and at the end sings out as if to remind Rigoletto that he no matter what Rigoletto did would always get the better of him. All as Rigoletto observes for himself that all he has managed to accomplish is the act of killing his own daughter instead of the man, he came to despise; who sings this aria as if in triumph over him.

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