by Steven Doyle
Rigoletto continues this week with the Dallas Opera’s artful performance of this Verdi send up to Victor Hugo’s Le roi s’amuse that illuminates the tribulation of the hunchback jester who continually attempts to rid himself of a curse placed on him as payment for his biting ridicule and torment at the whim of his master, the Duke of Mantua.
The jester Rigoletto is performed by renowned baritone, Paolo Gavanelli, who at once has his audience laughing and sobbing for his onstage antics and his remarkable delivery having performed the role on over 200 occasions. The likable character draws the audience in almost allowing us to assist with his buffoonish antics to save himself from misery.
For those not accustomed to opera you will find Rigoletto deliciously familiar and entertaining. The swift acts will keep syncopation with any music lover as the characters move in like joyous weekend guests.
Local music enthusiasts will cheer the striking native Texan Laura Claycomb who plays the Rigoletto’s daughter, Gilda,
and trained at Southern Methodist University where she received two bachelors’ degrees in Music and Foreign Languages making her Dallas Opera premier with this production. The adroit soprano is strong and consuming, delivering a heartfelt Gilda that brought the audience to their feet with her seraphic tones.
The Duke of Mantua, a caddish misogynist, is spryly played by affable American tenor James Valenti whose performance is overshadowed by Claycomb, but still entertaining perhaps due to his chiseled good looks that had more than a few in the audience squealing between each of the three acts. His renditions of both Questa o quella (This woman or that) and Parmi veder le lagrime (I seem to see tears) brings us to smile then to tears as we try to forgive the character in light of what might be his repentance.
All forgiveness of the Duke earned in the second act is shattered in the third by the seductress Maddalena, the assassin’s beautiful and obstreperous sister performed by the wickedly sensual mezzo-soprano Kirstin Chavez. The Chavez performance almost had us forget the loving torment outside her door as Gilda decides the ultimate sacrifice.
The score is lead with magnificence by the very young conductor Pietro Rizzo who made his operatic debut in United States in a 2009 Dallas Opera performance of ‘La Bohème’. The wistful ability of this conductor is evidenced by his sensitivity and precision.
Enjoy the delightful production of Rigoletto at one of the remaining performances and you too will walk back to your car humming La donna è mobile. We would see this again tonight.
Winspear Opera House
2403 Flora Street, Suite 500
Dallas, Texas 75201 (Map)