Posted March 26, 2011 | © Photo by Karen Almond
The Dallas Opera’s Rigoletto is a roller coaster of emotions that we wanted to ride over and over and over.
It’s soul-grabbing and gut-wrenching and laugh-out-loud funny; and if you have any inclination or affinity toward opera at all, this is unquestionably one to see!
In a tragic story of “what goes around comes around”, internationally acclaimed Italian baritone Paolo Gavanelli brilliantly plays Rigoletto, a hunchbacked court jester with anguished feelings of helplessness and self-pity.Employed by an immoral, womanizing Duke (tenor James Valenti) who touts that “faithfulness destroys liberty”, Rigoletto uses sarcastic and taunting words as daggers to cut at the hearts of men whose wives and daughters the Duke attempts to seduce.
With a terrifying curse looming over the two men because of their despicable actions, Rigoletto suffers fear for himself and for his own daughter, Gilda, magnificently portrayed by coloratura soprano Laura Claycomb from Corpus Christi, Texas.The vocal talent of both Gavanelli and Claycomb is simply astounding, especially as Claycomb hits the very highest of notes while lying flat on her back on the floor.So impressive.To see what we mean, hear one of Laura’s previous performances of “Caro nome” (“Dearest Name”) here as Gilda proclaims her love for the suave but lying Duke who she believes to be a student she saw at church.The onstage interaction between Gavanelli and Claycomb in the roles of this father/daughter duo was sweet and pure and touching, always seeming deeply familial and relational without ever displaying a hint of being inappropriately intimate or overtly sexual.
And so the protective Rigoletto, determined to shield his daughter “from the winds that destroy other flowers”, embarks upon a mission to guard Gilda from the Duke.But mistakenly assumed by the city’s noblemen to be Rigoletto’s lover, Gilda is abducted and taken to the palace.During a madman-like effort to rescue her, Gavanelli’s deliverance of “Cortigiani, vil razza dannata” ("Accursed race of courtiers") ushered in robust shouts of “Bravo!” from all around the theater. (See a previous Gavanelli version of the aria here).
Declaring “tremendous vengeance is my only desire”, Rigoletto meets up with the assassin Sparafucile (very sinisterly played by American bass Raymond Aceto) with whom he has negotiated a fee (because apparently it costs a little more to bump off a nobleman). Sparafucile’s sister assists in the dirty deeds by using her beauty to lure the Duke into the house where he sings the very recognizable tune “La donna mobile" ("Woman is fickle") which now seems to be stuck in our heads for the weekend, although we don’t mind it a bit. (See part of that James Valenti Dallas Opera performance here.) It is then that the love-struck Gilda watches from outside as the Duke is charmed by this other woman like an awful episode of Cheaters. (Where’s Joey Greco when you need him?)
So there we are ... dark, eerie night; flashes of lightning; high vocal notes representing shrieks of pain; Rigoletto vowing “His name is Crime; mine is Punishment”; along with an accordion style, moving stage set containing a back wall painted with clouds that sometimes look dreary or ominous and at other times hopeful and uplifting depending on scene and lighting; as well as stirring music (conducted by Pietro Rizzo) that was overall maybe the most ‘fanciful’ of the season; ... and
and ... ahh ... should we spoil the end? Nah, we won’t - just in case you don’t know it already.But it’s a hold-your-breath, twist-of-a-plot climactic ending that fulfils the Duke’s earlier prophetic warning to Rigoletto, “Your anger may be your ruin”.
Seriously, if you’re even remotely thinking of seeing an opera any time soon, you should go see this one. It’s so good.
Rigoletto runs through April 10, 2011; and Boris Godunov, a historical piece depicting the life of Russian ruler Boris Godunov, opens at the Winspear on April 1st.For more information, see http://www.dallasopera.org