Wednesday, June 5, 2019

How Rigoletto’s ‘La Donna e Mobile’ Has Dominated Pop Culture

Doritos used "La donna è mobile” in a Super Bowl commercial with a grandma and a baby in a slingshot.
By David Salazar, article originally from OperaWire

It is arguably the most misogynistic piece in all of opera, its text essentially calls women “fickle” and “small-minded.” And yet everyone revels in its sumptuous melody that has become opera’s most iconic number.

When Verdi first composed "La donna è mobile” for his Rigoletto, which premiered on March 11, 1851, he hid it for tenor Raffaele Mirate because he knew that if he did, the tenor would be humming it out in the open, ruining the surprise before the opera’s premiere. It isn’t hard to see why. With its bright tune and dynamic rhythmic figures, the melody just puts a smile on your face. Pleasure is quite the apt word for this aria.

And it is this idea of pleasure that has facilitated its transcendence into popular culture where adaptations have been used to directly associate it with positive energy or simply to poke fun at it.

So where have we heard "La donna è mobile” in the mainstream? Here are a few of those “adaptations.”

The Doritos Commercial

Doritos put together a few Super Bowl ads using the famed aria as a backdrop. One takes place in a theater, the singer on stage clearly out of his depth while the rest of the audience munches on the snack.

The latter is far more interesting, showcasing a child and his grandmother locked in a feud.

Leggo’s Tomato Paste
In this commercial for tomato paste, there is something to be said for how the music’s brightness matches the expressive and artistic act of cooking with the product in question. It is quite fanciful, elegant and certainly appetizing.

Dancing With the Stars
Utilized as the backdrop for the Viennese Waltz, this is the aria in its original form sung by none other than Vittorio Grigolo. It is rather ironic to see such a romantic waltz danced to this very piece.

Click here to watch.

Nestle Choco Crossies
Food also becomes the central focus in this commercial, the joy of the aria coalescing with the pleasure of sharing cookies on a cramped elevator of all places.

AXE Random Commercial
Taking the text at its word, this soft rock adaptation of the Verdi aria focuses on the turbulence of male and female relationships, with a twist as Women wind up being the aggressors. But when all is said and done, it has a happy ending.

Seattle Opera's Rigoletto plays Aug. 10-28, 2019 at McCaw Hall. 
Tickets & info: