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Turning Over New Leaf

Friday, July 12, 2013

Rigoletto: A Life Lesson

rigoletto
Plácido Domingo as Rigoletto
 
Recently, my wife and I attended a film presentation of Giuseppe Verdi’s Rigoletto.
It is difficult even for me to believe I could enjoy opera. I spent my life visualizing opera much the same as any Boston Bruins fan. Nevertheless, as a teacher of literature, I tend to analyze characters and plots with an eye focused on the deep meanings behind human actions.
From my college days, I learned to recognize the concept known as the tragic flaw. It exists not only in fictional characters, but also in real life. Thus, when I first viewed one of my favorite blogs, Fanáticos da Ópera, I immediately recognized the similarity between opera presentations and classic literary works. The subsequent fascination resulted in a newfound interest in a mode of expression I would not have otherwise imagined.
The story is actually based on Victor Hugo’s 1832 play, Le roi s'amuse, loosely translated as The King’s Fool. In any event, as we watched the Plácido Domingo version of the character, I began to compare the tragic hero’s flaw to those of people I have known in my own life.
Rigoletto is a tragic story that revolves around the the Chauvinist pig-like Duke of Mantua, Rigoletto, his hunch-backed court jester, and  beautiful Gilda, Rigoletto's daughter. The Duke seduces the daughter of a court member, with the help of Rigoletto, and a curse (La maledizione) is placed on the tragic hero. As a result, Gilda falls in love with the Duke and eventually sacrifices her life to save him from the assassins hired by her father.
Now this sounds like a chick flick I would never watch in a million years. However, from a literary viewpoint, the deeper meanings hit home. So many people prosper at the expense of others.  Like Rigoletto, they enjoy the downfalls of fellow human beings, but become incensed when the tables are turned. To me, it is a truly modern tale because none of the characters is completely good or evil. There exists a moral ambiguity that is not only very realistic, but also demonstrates that people who live their lives with questionable virtues, pay the piper somewhere down the line. It’s like garbage in, garbage out.
In the end, despite the curse, Rigoletto’s deformity, and other obstacles in the way of his happiness, his own shortcomings accounted for his fall. He amused himself at the expense of others, and his moral decline brought about his tragedy.
I suppose the best he can hope for now is to run for Mayor of New York.











22 comments:

  1. Haha, a chick flick. I love how you pull the deeper meaning from it - a good lesson I'll bear in mind next time I'm tempted to take joy at another's expense.

    Have a great weekend, JJ!

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    1. Nicki: I am certain you rank above Rigoletto on the moral scale.

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  2. Interesting perspective, JJ. I enjoy opera too, and I agree with you. We can analyse it the way we do with literary pieces.
    Good post.

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    1. Julia: Yes. I can't believe I never before saw it during my lifetime, but I never gave it a chance.

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  3. Very nice post, JJ! Rigoletto is one of the several masterpieces in opera composed by G. Verdi. And you are absolutely right when you mention that the story (the libretto) is based on a classic literary work. Indeed that is the case of many famous operas by several composers. When we read about them (or see them) for the first time, we recognize a story that we read or even studied before. That is a further attractive of opera, besides everything else: the music, the singing, the performance and the staging (although concerning this last one, especially here in Europe, we can expect very unusual and completely inappropriate approaches!).
    It was very nice of you to choose a picture of Placido Domingo, one of the best singers of our times (for the last four decades!). After the tremendous success of tenor roles, he is now singing baritone roles (like Rigoletto) with also great success and admiration of his fans. I am one of them. This week, unfortunately, he had pulmonar embolism and he is now in a hospital in Madrid. We do hope that he can recover soon, despite the potential severity of the medical condition.
    (And thank you for mentioning our blog again).

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    1. Fanático_Um: We have tickets for La Traviata scheduled for next month.

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  4. Mayor.... a good job for someone who doesn't like to keep their clothes on.

    I always liked Rigoletto too. Since I left Florida/Minnesota I haven't had an opportunity to see opera. It was such a treat when I lived in Florida. My husband didn't care for it and I enjoyed going alone. There were usually good single seats close up and I always took advantage of that.

    Sorry to hear Placido Domingo is ill. I've always been a fan of his too.

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    1. Manzie: I do understand you husband's reluctance. I was always the same way.

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  5. I'm not well-schooled in opera, but love those I'm familiar with and listening to some of its music can make me weak in the knees.

    I thoroughly enjoyed this post, and LOVED the last sentence. Brilliant surprise ending.

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    1. Susan: Some life lessons apply to everyone.

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    1. Jennifer: It sure sums it all up.

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  7. His own shortcomings - now that is closer to reality.

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  8. In the end, isn't it always our shortcomings that bring us down? Life hands everyone deficits (so to speak). We all get challenges. However, it is our own shortcomings that do us in. That isn't to say that other people sometimes don't help us along, but at some point we, and we alone, make that critical *bad choice* that is our undoing. And that is the tragedy.

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    1. Robin: Exactly! As a literature person, I know you see the connections with real life.

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  9. excellent analogy & synopsis, but my fave is tbe new career option at the end!

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    1. Tara: Tragic flaws are real, indeed.

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  10. The true classics are classics because they carry themes that ring true even today.

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    1. Lynda: Exactly! I am not sure why I never realized classic literature themes were consistent with opera themes.

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  11. Excellent review of Rigoletto. It's amazing how your perception changed, as you viewed it with an open mind. Bravo on the clever ending!

    Julie

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    1. Julie: Thank you. Being a lifetime learner is what it is all about. I have much to learn.

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