Singers Show Stress, But Stage, Costumes Carry Rigoletto

Nearly all the elements for a perfect Rigoletto were in place as the Verdi masterpiece opened in the Dallas Opera’s latest rendition at Winspear Opera House Friday night.

Set designer Michael Yeargan’s production, originally created as a joint venture of the Dallas Opera and Houston Grand Opera nearly two decades ago, and since seen at numerous major opera houses, has been aptly labeled a classic. Friday night, it was as visually captivating as ever: massive, Bauhausian rectangles provide a visual anchor and sense of solidity, while images of a distant storm give the flavor of sweeping romanticism on which this drama of betrayal and revenge can develop. Against this backdrop combining a grand landscape with severe modernism, Yeargan’s production introduces a third element in the form of elaborate, almost obsessively detailed Renaissance costumes by the late Peter J. Hall, resulting in a visual impression that constantly contradicts and thus constantly intrigues—much like Verdi’s music.

In the pit, Pietro Rizzo conducted this familiar score with impeccable timing and sense of color; he brought a unique sense of physical space to Verdi’s music, tugging the listener from one emotion to another, and, tellingly, producing the most arresting moments when the music is at its most bleak. The staging by Harry Silverstein and choreography by Keturah Stickann further underlined the multi-layered elements of the drama. In the opening scene, for instance, the subtle interaction of dancers and singers introduced, with hardly any overt reference, an unmistakable sense of sexual decadence at the ducal court of Mantua in the sixteenth century.

Baritone Paolo Gavanelli was, of course, at the center of this cyclonic action, in the title role. His restless visual interpretation was worth the price of admission. However, the voice was often haphazard in tone quality and volume level. One sensed that one was hearing and seeing a great performance with a voice that was under some stress.

Likewise, tenor James Valenti’s rendition of the Duke was uncertain both musically and dramatically at times, with all the right notes but little nuance. It was easy to hate the character of the Duke, but there should also be some element that makes the viewer-listener understand why both Gilda and Maddalena love him.

Soprano Laura Claycomb was beyond reproach as Gilda. With conductor Rizzo’s sure support, she produced goose bumps and won the loudest cheers of the evening with her rendition of “Caro nome.” Mezzo-soprano Kirstin Chavez brought a beautiful, rich quality to her brief but pivotal rendition of Maddalena, and bass Raymond Aceto dominated the stage whenever he entered as the evil Sparafucile. Bass-baritone Bradley Garvin was similarly powerful as the wronged Monterone.

All photos by Karen Almond for the Dallas Opera


  • I thought you might find this information about Bradley Garvin, who portrays Monterone in Rigoletto at the Dallas Opera House, interesting.
    Bradley Garvin Press Release
    For immediate release
    Contact: Janet Elaine Smith, Marketing Dir., Star Publish LLC
    E-mail contact: [email protected]
    Phone: (715) 759-5972
    Dallas Opera House performer turns to the literary world
    Nationally and internationally known bass-baritone Bradley Garvin is appearing currently in the key role of Count Monterone in Verdi’s “Rigoletto” at the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House in Dallas. He is described by the Berkshire Review as “tall and imposing, grand of voice, and adept at drama.” A post on the Dallas Opera blog ( says, “Bradley Garvin was regal and imposing in the pivotal role of Count Monterone.” A review of Garvin in the same role in Houston in 2009 states, “Yet as soon as Bradley Garvin’s imposing Count Monterone hurled his fateful curse at the Duke and Rigoletto late in the scene, the Verdi classic gained focus and caught fire.” (Houston Chronicle, Apr. 2009) “Of the supporting roles, Bradley Garvin as Monterone sang particularly well, projecting a large, ringing bass-baritone into the house in the curse scene.” (Opera News)
    Garvin comes to Dallas with an impressive record as a successful opera singer for the last 20 years, performing in such places as Houston, Chicago, Kansas City, Bregenz Austria, Bogotá Colombia, and Palm Beach, but most notably, he has been a soloist with the Metropolitan Opera of New York City for the past seventeen years. His latest appearance was in Miami, where he portrayed four distinct characters in The Tales of Hoffman.
    Recently, Garvin has dabbled in another area of the arts. He is the author of a wonderful mystery, With the Voice of Angels, published by Star Publish LLC. It is often said that you should “write what you know.” Garvin did that with his book. It is set in Chicago, where he grew up (although he now resides in New York City), and centers around the opera scene there. The main opera in the book is Tosca, in which Garvin played Scarpia in 2010 in Boston. A review of his performance says, “Bradley Garvin, as Scarpia, commanded the attention of the entire audience whenever he was on stage. His imposing presence and rock-solid acting paired with his powerful bass-baritone voice made his performance the highlight of the evening.” Another review of his Tosca role pegs him as “a believable lecher.”
    Martha Allday, the co-president of the Dallas Opera Guild (where Garvin is now appearing) says of With the Voice of Angels, “Brad’s ability to so effectively depict bad guys and their evil deeds and portray the intensely sweet relationship of Gwen and Enzo is amazing. But he experiences that every day in opera, doesn’t he?” At Allday’s request, Garvin has generously autographed copies of the book which are on sale in the Opera Boutique at the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House, which is open during the regular performance hours. (Remaining performances of Rigoletto are April 2, 7, and 10.)
    In addition, Garvin will be signing copies of With the Voice of Angels at the Borders bookstore at 965 W. Bethany Drive, Allen, TX on Tuesday, April 5, at 6 p.m. Events director Aubrey Munchrath has been making the arrangements for the signing. Photos with Garvin will be allowed.
    Garvin is currently working on a new book. This time he has gone outside the familiar setting of the opera. The book is a slightly futuristic thriller/mystery, set within the confines of the US penal system. “I’m having to do more research for this one,” Garvin jokes.