Thursday, March 24, 2011
Opera preview: Rigoletto at the Winspear Opera House
If you’ve ever stepped foot in Eatzi’s food market or seen an operatic spaghetti commercial, then you know Rigoletto’s “La Donna e Mobile."
DALLAS Rigoletto at the Winspear Opera House, hosted by The Dallas Opera, does not disappoint. In a story driven by lust, debauchery, family ties, and tragedy, the Dallas Opera’s interpretation of Giuseppe Verdi’s famed masterpiece punches up the drama and holds the audience with rapt attention.
Two notable players in the world of opera make their Dallas debut with this production: commanding baritone Paolo Gavanelli and Texas-born soprano Laura Claycomb. The two play the ever-dramatic father-daughter duo of the hunchbacked jester, Rigoletto, and his daughter, Gilda. A bonafide veteran of the role — he has portrayed Rigoletto upwards of 250 times — Gavanelli brings an almost superhuman vibrato and volume alongside his own special innuendo to the role. He encapsulates the character with such effortless ease and power that the role of the hunchbacked jester seems a natural extension of himself.
Claycomb, a redhead SMU alum, plays the daughter Gilda with an absolutely believable innocence and virginal lust. Her highest notes float with joy or sadness, depending on the scene, and even when lying fully horizontal, her cadence and quality does not break. The jilted love is palpable as she falls victim to the hedonistic chauvinism of the womanizing Duke of Manuta, played by Adonis crooner and tenor James Valenti. (Teen girls and even grandmothers shrieked at his final bow. You can see from his photo that he's ... chiseled.)
If you’ve ever stepped foot in Eatzi’s food market or seen an operatic spaghetti commercial, then you know Rigoletto’s “La Donna e Mobile” — it’s a pop culture staple of sorts. Valenti confidently belts the score with a light and carefree aura that capture the character Duke's self-centered oblivion.
Meanwhile, the sinister and soul-stirring bass Raymond Aceto works convincingly as Sparafucile, the dedicated assassin hired to kill the Duke before an infamous turn of events that make this story so compelling, beloved, and utterly tragic.
Throughout, eccentric, curly locked conductor Pietro Rizzo, who made his Dallas and American debut two seasons ago with Puccini’s La Boheme, meticulously strikes every beat as Verdi wrote it, paying special allowance for audience reaction with impeccable timing. The direction by Chicago based Harry Silverstein worked, as each character’s blocking and timing brought the audience into a realistic sense of sexual lust, true fatherly love, and even devastating loss.
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