It’s one of the best-known tunes in theater, “La donna è mobile,” and it’s delivered by the Duke of Nantua quite late in the opera, Rigoletto. “Women are unreliable,” he claims. It could be any roué, Lothario or serial debaucher, (Berlusconi, Trump, Epstein, etc.) referring to, well, almost any one of their accusers.
But the woman in this instance is the innocent Gilda, daughter of Rigoletto, the hunchback court jester (updated to a sort of office clown in this very handsome production), and decidedly not fickle. Her doting dad spoils the Duke’s planned seduction of another courtier and gets cursed for his trouble.
Seattle Opera is playing up the feminist credentials of the production’s director, Lindy Hume, as if basic human decency needed additional rationale. Although Hume created this production seven years ago for Opera Queensland, we understand at once that this is all about POTUS, his enablers and sycophants. (How ironic that Opening Night coincided with Epstein being found dead in his cell.)
Some familiar voices in the current production: Lester Lynch, who sang Crown in Porgy, is in the title role as the overprotective father; Madison Leonard, Frasquita in the recent production of Carmen, as Gilda (who really does need to dial back some of those high notes). Newcomer Liparit Avetisyan was the amoral Duke.
Avetisyan plays up the vacuous, rather than villainous. side of his character. I was reminded of Aarfy in Catch 22, willfully oblivious to the destruction his selfishness is creating. He’s not even around for the tragic ending. An elaborate set-up, a hit-job gone wrong, and Gilda’s corpse is delivered in a body-bag at the dramatic conclusion. “La maledizzione!” cries the wronged father as the curtain falls.
You think of current events, and your skin crawls.
Seattle Opera presents Rigoletto through August 28th at McCaw Hall.
Title photo: Madison Leonard as Gilda. Seattle Opera photos by Sunny Martini.