Today would be Giuseppe Verdi’s 199th birthday. His melodies are probably the most popular in the world of classical music and, well, all around the world. If you ask somebody on the street if he knows any operatic aria, one of a few possible responses would be “La donna e mobile” (Woman is fickle), which is the Duke of Mantua’s canzone from the beginning of act 3 of Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Rigoletto (1851). The inherent irony is that it is the callous playboy Duke himself who is mobile (“inconstant”).
The canzone is famous as a showcase for tenors. Raffaele Mirate’s performance of the bravura aria at the opera’s 1851 premiere was hailed as the highlight of the evening. Before its first public performance (in Venice), it was rehearsed under tight secrecy: a necessary precaution, because it proved to be catchy and soon after its first public performance every gondolier in Venice was singing it.
Well that was Rigoletto. What is your favorite Verdi opera or aria?