Year 1964, in Moscow, 29-year-old Luciano Pavarotti sings the famous canzone from the beginning of act 3 of Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Rigoletto, “La Donna è Mobile”. He was not “the king” yet.
“La donna è mobile” (The woman is fickle) is the Duke of Mantua’s canzone from the beginning of act 3 of Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Rigoletto (1851). Composed between 1850 and 1851, Verdi’s Rigoletto is a twisted tale of lust, desire, love, and deceit. The inherent irony is that the Duke, a callous playboy, is the one who is mobile (“inconstant”). Its reprise towards the end of the opera is chilling, as Rigoletto realizes from the sound of the Duke’s lively voice coming from within the tavern (offstage), that the body in the sack over which he has grimly triumphed is not that of the Duke after all: Rigoletto had paid Sparafucile, an assassin, to kill the Duke but Sparafucile deceived him by killing Gilda, Rigoletto’s beloved daughter, instead.