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"La donna è mobile" [la ˈdɔnna ɛ mˈmɔːbile] (The woman is fickle) is the Duke of Mantua's canzone from the beginning of act 3 of Giuseppe Verdi's opera Rigoletto (1851). 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 the opera's first public performance (in Venice), the song was rehearsed under tight secrecy: a necessary precaution, as "La donna è mobile" proved to be incredibly catchy, and soon after the song's first public performance, every gondolier in Venice was singing it.
As the opera progresses, the reprise of the tune in the following scenes exemplifies a sense of confusion, as Rigoletto realizes that from the sound of the Duke's lively voice coming from within the tavern (offstage), the body in the sack over which he had grimly triumphed, was not that of the Duke after all: Rigoletto had paid Sparafucile, an assassin, to kill the Duke, but Sparafucile had deceived Rigoletto by indiscriminately killing Gilda, Rigoletto's beloved daughter, instead. The song is an irony, as no character in the opera presents traits associated with rationality; every character may be considered callous and mobile ("inconstant").
Watch videos with other singers performing La donna e mobile:
DUCA 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 core! Pur mai non sentesi Felice appieno Chi su quel seno Non liba amore!
La donna è mobile, ecc.
Sparafucile rientra con una bottiglia di vino e due bicchieri che depone sulla tavola: quindi batte col pomo della sua lunga spada due colpi al soffitto. A quel segnale una ridente giovane, in costume di zingara, scende a salti la scala. Il Duca corre per abbracciarla, ma ella gli sfugge. Frattanto Sparafucile, uscito sulla via, dice a parte a Rigoletto:
SPARAFUCILE È là il vostr'uomo …viver dee o morire?
RIGOLETTO Più tardi tornerò l'opra a compire.
Sparafucile s'allontana dietro la casa verso il fiume.
English Libretto or Translation:
DUKE Women are as fickle as feathers in the wind, simple in speech, and simple in mind. Always the loveable, sweet, laughing face, but laughing or crying, the face is false for sure.
If you rely on her you will regret it, and if you trust her you are undone! Yet none can call himself fully contented who has not tasted love in her arms!
Women are as fickle, etc.
Sparafucile returns with a bottle of wine and two glasses, which he puts on the table; then he strikes the ceiling twice with the pommel of his sword. At this signal, a buxom young woman in gypsy costume comes jumping down the stairs. The Duke runs to kiss her, but she eludes him. Meanwhile, Sparafucile, having slipped out into the road, speaks softly to Rigoletto:
SPARAFUCILE Your man's in there. Is he to live or die?
RIGOLETTO I'll come back later to conclude our business.
Sparafucile moves off behind the house in the direction of the river.