It’s opera season again in Cincinnati – first up was Rigoletto last Thursday and Saturday. Our tickets are for Saturday nights.
A great production – the singing, the acting, the sets. Those voices – incredible arias, great group singing. Just melted the heart. But that story. I love the over-the-top stories of opera – not just a little problem, but a huge dramatic flood. In this case, though – ugh.
Rigoletto is an uptight hunchbacked limping father, with a backstory we don’t know (not even his real name), who has raised a gorgeous daughter in almost total isolation. He is the Fool at the court of the Duke of Mantua, who is a known womanizer, exercising the droit du seigneur with impunity – the right to have any woman he pleases any time. Rigoletto, to make the Duke happy, has made enemies of much of the court. And he is so secretive that men at the court think his daughter is his mistress.
The daughter has been admired at church by a young man who turns out to be the Duke – though she thinks he’s a poor student. She has no skills or experience with which to judge the Duke’s flirtation. The upshot is that the courtiers kidnap her (with Rigoletto’s unwitting help) and deliver her to the Duke (though they don’t know he knows of her), who actually loves her, at least at that moment. So the act may not have been exactly rape, and she is now really in love with him, though grieving for her father’s anger, urging him to forgive the Duke. The father sets up a contract to have the Duke murdered – but it is Gilda who dies. Rigoletto at least sees that it is his revenge which is the direct cause.
The music and the singing – brilliant. But part of me is getting very tired of celebrating embedded Western cultural beliefs about women, which so often result in destruction of the divine feminine.
The other three operas in the season each have much better endings. Thank the Goddess!