Tonight I took Experiment # 1 to the Opera. Normally, I take Kaja to the opera, but she decided she’d rather watch wallabies play a LARP version of Frogger down in Australia, so no opera for her.
The opera was Rigoletto by Verdi. WARNING! EVERYTHING AFTER THIS IS A SPOILER! So if you’re planning on catching the opera over the weekend, stop reading.
Now, I’d never seen it before, as by all accounts, it was a bit of a downer. Interestingly, Verdi solved this problem by giving the main villain one of the most upbeat and memorable tunes in all of classical music as his leitmotif (La donna è mobile). The Seattle Opera staged this in 1930’s Fascist Italy (already a source of hilarity). This Rigoletto guy is The Duke’s acerbic, hunchbacked busboy, or something. Everyone except The Duke hates him, because unlike everyone else in fascist Italy, he talks mean about them. The Duke is a notorious horndog, known for seducing and abandoning every woman necessary to the plot.
It is discovered that the hated Rigoletto has a daughter he’s been raising in secret, far away. Now, however, for some reason, he’s decided to have her brought to the city where everyone hates him. It’s also not a very safe city, apparently, as while walking home, he meets an assassin, Sparafucile, who asks if he needs anybody bumped off, in much the same way I’d expect a kid on the street to ask me if I wanted my shoes shined. Rigoletto takes his card, because, hey– you never know. #1 makes me proud by asking if this guy is a Chekov’s Gunman.
Rigoletto’s daughter, Gilda, is never allowed out of the house, except to go to church (Italians). Naturally, this is where she is seen by The Duke, who, when he’s not running the government and boinking anything in skirts, hangs out at small churches, trolling the congregation. The Duke tracks her down to Rigoletto’s house and bribes the maid, who’s only job is guard Gilda. Naturally, the Duke & Gilda fall in love. That same evening, after the Duke has left, everybody we saw hanging around the Duke’s Court, breaks into Rigoletto’s house and kidnaps Gilda, because god forbid twenty fascists punch out a 60 year old, hunchbacked busboy jester when they can kidnap a girl.
Then they bring her to the Ducal Palace, which is like, proof that they are the worst staff ever. When the Duke finds out, he’s actually kind of pissed and goes offstage to make sure that she’s okay. Apparently, when he sees her, he reverts to type and “betrays” her. Considering that he liked her, and she liked him, and they weren’t married, and he didn’t shoot her or anything, I’m not sure what actually happened here. I mean, I think we’re supposed to think they had sex…but if that’s the case, I guess the Duke did a pretty poor job of it (which can make ladies sad- or so I’ve heard), because she comes out all depressed, and Rigoletto is pretty mad too. So mad that they leave.
A month passes. Gilda is still sad, but still madly in love with the Duke. Man, I really want to know what happened off stage there. Anyway, she’s so mopey, that Rigoletto has hired Sparafucile to kill the Duke. Gilda says that they should just forget about it and leave town. Rigoletto makes her listen at the door, so that she can hear the Duke saying that he “loves” Sparafucile’s sister, who’s lured him to the assassin’s house. I think it’s pretty obvious that the Duke has a problem. Medically, it’s known as Satyriasis, and is the male equivalent of Nymphomania, a word which just got this post another 5000 hits.
So the hit is on. Sparafucile’s sister, however, begs her brother not to kill the Duke because he’s so hot. It must be pheromones. Sparafucil is indignant. He’s a professional. He’s taken Rigoletto’s coin. This guy is going to die…unless a convenient stranger shows up at his door in the next five minutes to provide a body. This is good news for Gilda, who has snuck back to gaze wistfully at Sparafucil’s door for half an hour, and overheard everything. Determined to prove that she loves the Duke, she hammers at the door and gets stabbed. This is pretty much the point where Experiment # 1’s incredulity threatens to cause his head to explode. It is very entertaining.
So Rigoletto returns. Obviously he decides he wants to see the body he’s paid for– who could have foreseen that?– and we see him discover that not only is the hated Duke is still alive- and singing his jolly tune– but that his daughter is dying. Oh yes, not only is Sparafucil dishonest, he’s also a crap assassin, since Gilda is alive enough to belt out another aria. Then she dies, and Rigoletto is sad. The End.
To make things even more depressing, as we’re leaving, I ask the lad what lessons he’s learned? He starts going off on how vengeance is bad. Obviously he’s completely missed the point, which is that being a hunchbacked, acerbic busboy for a fascist dictator is a crap job, and one that he could wind up with if his grades don’t improve. Kids. On the other hand, story elements aside, he really enjoyed it, as did I. I’d take him again in a minute.