Today I saw my first opera. It was screened into the cinema which works well for me as a) there are subtitles and b) it is much cheaper (I have an Infinity membership so ‘events’ such as ballet, opera and National Theatre Live cost me less than ten pounds). Therefore this is a much cheaper and accessible way to access the arts.
I did not think I would like opera- I thought it was ‘fancy wailing’. My verdict on watching Rigoletto? I was mesmerized for nearly 3 hours. If you know me, you will know this is quite the feat.
Without spoiling this opera for those who wish to see it, I can say it was criminological and sociological. Although it premiered in 1851 it is very much a discussion of our times. Men with inherited wealth who collect art and collect women, whose excessive appetites corrupt those around them and sicken society with a deep moral decay.
Women’s bodies are cast as sites of men’s domination and power from Maddalena being sent to have sex with the Duke by her brother, to Gilda being kidnapped by Count Ceprano and his men to teach Rigoletto a lesson. Both of these scenes reminded me of organised crime gangs and how they use women in order to control other men.
When asked for his intended victim’s name by assassin Sparafucile, Rigoletto says “He is crime and I am punishment”. Organised crime from the 1800’s folks.
This opera also reminded me in part of the Arthur Miller play The View From the Bridge, of which I saw a small local production on Friday night. In Miller’s play, the sexual attraction of protagonist Eddie Carbone to his niece Catherine was very disturbing to watch. The anger and tension grew throughout the performance before Eddie commits the ultimate betrayal that had the audience gasping.
Both stories also speak to vengeance and how that rot of hatred sets in. It reminded me deeply of William Blake’s ‘The Poison Tree’.
Rigoletto speaks of darkness and light, pits male power against innocence, and demonstrates how those complicit in the corruption and greed uphold the system. In 2022 where those in power are only a little short of banqueting outside the food banks, the story holds true.
I am looking forward to my next opera La Traviata in April.