Caro nome and Rigoletto's
by Marco Milano
Rigoletto is chronologically the first opera in
Giuseppe Verdi's Trilogia Popolare, formed by Rigoletto, Il
Trovatore and La Traviata. In spite of this, from the musical point
of view Rigoletto is less traditional than Trovatore, but has in
common with it the remote historical setting, while La Traviata will
present (or at least will try to present) an astonishing "contemporary"
In Rigoletto, whose structure is very different from conventional
Italian opera (lack of entrance arias and final concertati, brief
ouverture, etc.), much was said about the beauty and novelty of the famous
Gualtier Maldé... Caro nome, where Gilda expresses her feelings for The
Duke (believed a student) with numberless colorature, and many consider
this piece the symbol of Gilda's character.
- We do
not agree with all this admiration, and Caro nome seems to us terribly
full of artificial, mawkish, sickly sweet flavors, that are in strong contrast
with Rigoletto's global musical atmosphere, that is imposingly dramatic
(as we can see in the hunchback's singing and in the continuos link with the
"curse": La maledizione was the first title of the opera), and also
contrasting with Gilda's ethereal sublimity (as in her death scene).
The sole deep link that Caro nome has with the rest of the opera is
with Questa o quella and La donna è mobile (the other
world-famous piece in this opera), a link made of melodic, tonal and musical
donna è mobile is surely a real masterpiece,
coming from Verdi's most fluid musical vein, but we must note that like
Gilda's one, both The Duke's aria and his cabaletta are detached from
Rigoletto's musical atmosphere. But... this is justified by The Duke's
personality, truly different from the inner suffering of his jester, from
Sparafucile's darkness, from the innocence of the young he seduces, from
Rigoletto's entire atmosphere.
On the contrary, Caro nome is extraneous also to Gilda's musical area.
So we have an issue: established the difference between Questa o quella
- La donna è mobile - Caro nome and the rest of Rigoletto
and established the similarities among the three pieces, we find that the
first two are "justified" by the personality of the character (The Duke),
while the third is extraneous even to the personality of the singer (Gilda).
Why such a difference of musical-dramatic treatment?
- We can
try to find a reason deeper than the simple "necessity of a great
coloratura aria" to explain the distance between Caro nome and
Gilda's musical atmosphere, and just the link with The Duke's arias can give
us a clue. We think that Caro nome pertains to The Duke's musical and
psychological area: while the lyrics are an expression of Gilda's personality,
the music is entirely an expression of The Duke's one, and this is the reason
of its link to La donna è mobile and Questa o quella instead of
to the other musical expressions by Gilda.
A possible explanation of the mystery is this one: Verdi's genius probably
wanted to put in evidence how The Duke's personality completely subjugated
Gilda's one, forcing her even to express using The Duke's musical style.
So we think that Caro nome is "The Duke's music", and for this reason
in Rigoletto there is only one great differentiation, the one between
The Duke's musical area and the rest of the opera, as even the other
extraneous area, represented by Caro nome, actually pertains to the
same Duke, who forced his way into Gilda's "weak" personality.
- Another confirmation of this
hypothesis can be found in the plot. The Duke ensnared Gilda so much that she
sings using The Duke's style, so different from hers, showing a total loss of
her personality, drowned in her love for the noble rake, and this provokes her
death: in spite of her discovering The Duke's infidelity and his lecherous
life, she is so "Duke-made" that decides to die to save his life, annihilating
her existence, that goes on ideally in the survival of The Duke alone.
After the final tragedy, Gilda recovers herself, and expresses again in the
innocent, sublime style that is her own: while dying in her father's arms, she
is pushed to Heaven's "beyond", freed from The Duke's expressive modules.