Night at the Opera #3: Rigoletto

Last night, I went to the Kennedy Centre to see Verdi’s Rigoletto.  I rather enjoyed the show.  Yeah, I know a lot of you guys are like… opera?  Ugh.  But for real, give it a try.  You just might like it.  I know you are like, but they are singing in another language.  If you go to a simple opera, you won’t even need to know what they are saying.  In any event, there are supertitles (subtitles at the top).  Simple operas have very simple stories.  A dummy could figure out what is going on just by watching.  There are more complex, esoteric operas that leave you feeling like, “huh…” at the end.  I haven’t graduated to those type yet.  I prefer the Italian operas.  Most of the Italian operas are tragedies; usually, there’s all this drama and someone dies.  There are comedic operas, but sense I do not have a sense of humour, I like the death scenes.

Rigoletto is a tragic Italian opera.

The Basic Story
Rigoletto is an ugly, deformed man who works for the Duke of Mantua.  The Duke of Mantua is very rich and very handsome, and he loves women.  He doesn’t care who the girl is, if it’s his best friend’s wife or his daughter, he wants to mess with them.  The Duke tells Rigoletto, I want that girl and Rigoletto goes and gets her for him.

In the beginning of the story, the Duke has seduced the daughter of a man named Monterone.  Rigoletto kidnapped the girl and brought her to the Duke.  The girl wound up killing herself and when Monterone found out, he cursed Rigoletto.

Rigoletto himself had a very beautiful daughter named Gilda.  She was a hard-headed hoe.  Because Rigoletto knew that the Duke was a horny bastard, he told Gilda that she should stay inside and never go out because it wasn’t safe.  Being a teenage girl, she did what she wanted to do.  While Rigoletto was gone, she would sneak out and go down to the church where this cute student worked.  Turns out, the student was actually the Duke in disguise.  Gilda thinks she is in love with him because he’s so handsome and he’s telling her that she is beautiful and that he’s going to marry her.  Really, he just wants to get some.

Rigoletto is pretty much the Duke’s best friend and his other friends are jealous.  They start spying on Rigoletto and they find out about his daughter, but mistakenly they think Gilda is his mistress.  They plot to kidnap her.  They trick Rigoletto into thinking they are kidnapping another girl, and this dummy winds up kidnapping his own child and giving her to the Duke.

The Duke reveals his true character by raping her and humiliating her, basically telling her that he wasn’t really trying to be in love with her or marry her ass.  She feels bad and her father rescues her.  Rigoletto now understands how he was cursed by Monterone.  Remember, the same thing happened to Monterone’s daughter.

So Rigoletto tells Gilda, “See, he never loved you.  That’s why I wanted you to stay inside.”  Gilda is all depressed and Rigoletto hires a man to kill the Duke.  The plan was to get the man’s sister to seduce him and then the man would kill, wrap him up in some sheets and Rigoletto would throw him in the river.  He tells Gilda to dress up like a boy and go to Verona.  They couldn’t live in their town anymore.

Once again, hard-headed ass Gilda finds out about the plot to kill the Duke.  For some strange reason, after he raped her, she is still in love with him.  Even though she overhears the Duke telling the man’s sister how much he loves her… just so he can get some.  Gilda is like.. should I obey my father or save my lover?

What does this hoe do?  She saves her lover.  She goes to the killer’s house and they wind up killing her instead.  She was dressed like a boy so they didn’t really recognise the difference.  They wrap her up in sheets and leave the body for Rigoletto to throw in the river.  Rigoletto picks up the body but he hears the Duke’s voice.  He’s like, “Wait a minute, I thought ya’ll killed him?”  If he’s alive, then who the fuck is this?  He opens up the sheets and finds Gilda, pretty much dead.

He starts freaking out and he’s like, “Why did you do this?” and she’s like, “Because I love him.”  Aww, so sad.  She dies.  Rigoletto goes crazy, never to be heard from again.

The end.

Naturally, I have heard this opera 50 million times.  But also, like I said there are supertitles to translate and on top of that the libretto (the story) of the opera is written in the playbill that you get before the show starts.  It’s not like you will be sitting there not having a clue what is going on.

Some people don’t like the singing, and that’s cool.  I very much enjoy operatic singing, but I also like the brilliance of an excellently crafted set.  Whoever created these sets for this particular opera… it was amazing.  The first scene when they were in the palace, all the colours were real bright.  The costumes were just great.  Then the final scene when they were at the killer’s house, the background was a real Italian city.  It had depth.  It didn’t look like a big sheet that’s been painted on.

And then the acting.  The best singers are also brilliant actors.  If the singing doesn’t stir you, the acting will.  When Gilda is singing to her maid about how she is in love with the “poor student” it is like she really is in love and you can feel it.  Then when she dies in the end and Rigoletto is all depressed, you feel bad for him.  They aren’t just standing there singing at the top of their lungs.

I don’t know.  I guess it’s just me.

I enjoyed it even though the Kool-Aid Man and the Unsinkable Molly Brown next to me were talking during the whole first act.  I had to cuss them out because they wouldn’t shut up.

I got there a little late.  Usually I arrive about 45 minutes early because I like to sit on the steps of the opera house and people watch.  Back in the day, going to the opera used to be an event.  You had to get all dressed up in evening attire.  Women would come out in their couture evening gowns and the men were usually in suits or tuxes.  Nowadays, you can come like anything.  One girl was there in jeans and her boyfriend had on flip flops.

I always dress up.  I don’t own an evening gown, but I do put on a skirt and heels.  I can’t go anywhere looking like anything.  But there are still plenty of women who dress up.  I saw a lot of beautiful cocktail dresses and evening gowns.  Some women dress up their business casual.  Most of the guys wear slacks and ties.  You can always tell money from the bums.

Of course, there are like 5 black people, mostly women.  I saw 4 black women with husbands/boyfriends/lovers of other races.  One black woman came in with  this bangin’ sequin dress and she was on the arm of rich Japanese guy.  There were no young black people.  Except  me.

I know most black people do not grow up with opera, and so they have no experience of it.  But I find a lot of black people unwilling to step out of their comfort zone and try something new.  Even if you wind up hating it, you could at least try.  Washington National Opera does this thing called Access to Opera.  The tickets are only 25, plus they offer other discounts for students and military.  So you can try it out for cheap and if you like it, buy some real seats and if you hate it, you won’t be out a lot of money.

There were plenty of minorities though, mostly Asians and Indo-Pakistanis.  Most of them were young, like 30 and under.  There were young white people, even white teenagers, and of course, plenty of old ass white people.

I am just moved by the whole set up of opera.  I do like other styles of music, but I do not think any of them can encompass passion, drama and intrigue the way an opera does.  When Whitney Houston sings a song, everyone says she has a great voice and maybe you can relate to that song, but that’s about it.  It doesn’t really stay with you.

When you meet Mimi (a girl from another opera) and you hear her sing of her love for this cute boy she just met, it’s like you fall in love too and when he breaks her heart because he’s a loser… you can get into that because we have all been there, done that.  Most of us don’t kill ourselves or die from some obscure disease, but sometimes we feel that way and in the tragic operas, all those emotions can be displayed in a way that Whitney, Beyonce, Keisha, Mariah or anybody else cannot portray.

At any rate, I’m only planning on seeing one other opera this season.  And that’s a maybe.  I might check out Elektra.  If I remember correctly, she’s a character from Greek or Roman mythology that humped her own father.  Scandalous.

This year, I could only afford the Access to Opera tickets, the $25 ones.  Last night was the first night I got to sit down.  Usually I don’t get there in time to buy the cheap tickets and wind up having to buy the Standing Room Only tickets.  Not fun to stand for like 3 hours.

Next year, I want season tickets because Washington National Opera will be performing my favourite opera TurandotMadama Butterlfy used to be my favourite, but Turandot has overcome.  The story of a beautiful, but cold-hearted bitchy princess who lures men to their death by making them fall in love with her.  The music is spectacular and it’s set in China, and you know I love everything Asian.  Some of the best arias come from Turandot. I can’t wait.  I’ll also see La Traviata and Carmen.  A black singer will play the lead role of Carmen.

I want box seats, but how about premium box seats are $225.  Oh well, but since it will be my birthday, I may just reward myself.

If anybody wants to go…. Yeah right.


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