Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Three Tenors: La Donna è Mobile

The Three Tenors, Luciano Pavarotti, Plácido Domingo and José Carreras perform "La donna è mobile,"  from Giuseppe Verdi's opera Rigoletto (1851). This performance is from the concert at  Los Angeles, California, on July 16, 1994, with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the chorus of Los Angeles Opera, Zubin Mehta conducting.

Rigoletto, an opera in three acts by Giuseppe Verdi, is based on the play Le roi s'amuse, a tragedy in five acts that Victor Hugo published in 1832. The Italian libretto was written by Francesco Maria Piave, who had a long and successful collaboration with Verdi. The opera was first performed at La Fenice in Venice, Italy, on March 11, 1851. It is set in Manuta, Italy, in the 16th century.

"La donna è mobile" is the Duke of Mantua's aria in Act 3. The irony is not lost on the audience, who understands that it is the Duke of Mantua himself who suffers inconstancy and is an immoral and cynical womanizer. Here is the original Italian and English translation, as supplied by

Original Italian
La donna è mobile
Qual piuma al vento,
Muta d'accento — e di pensiero.
Sempre un amabile,
Leggiadro viso,
In pianto o in riso, — è menzognero.
È sempre misero
Chi a lei s'affida,
Chi le confida — mal cauto il cuore!
Pur mai non sentesi
Felice appieno
Chi su quel seno — non liba amore!

English Translation

Woman is flighty
Like a feather in the wind,
She changes her voice — and her mind.
Always sweet,
Pretty face,
In tears or in laughter, — she is always lying.
Always miserable
Is he who trusts her,
He who confides in her — his unwary heart!
Yet one never feels
Fully happy
Who on that bosom — does not drink love!
 In another performance, here Pavarotti sings the aria in this film version of Rigoletto (1982) directed by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle.

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