Mayes gives a "poignant" performance of Verdi's "Rigoletto" at Houston Grand

“With only a week's notice, baritone Michael Mayes replaced an ailing Brian Mulligan, and he made you feel as if he's been singing this difficult role all his young life. Both gruff and tender, with commanding power, he became the snarky jester putting down his betters; the doting, over-protective father; the vengeful-seeking harpy; and, then, grief-stricken lone survivor. He's saddled with a garish clown costume with floppy ruff that has shades of Harlequin and Emil Jannings' pitiful cuckolded Professor Rath in The Blue Angel, but seems a bit out of place for the one-percenter milieu of '20s Mantua. But Mayes is a trouper, has definite stage presence, and sings the hell out of the role.” -Houston Press Read full review. "The outstanding vocal cast delivers strong performances from top to bottom. Baritone Michael Mayes, in the title role, sings with great intensity and pathos, drawing the audience in to Rigoletto’s pain. His empathetic portrayal captures the jester’s vulnerability as an outcast and the only protector of his daughter, Gilda. With moments of stirring emotion in each act, Mayes is the moral compass of the opera, laying bare the indignity of it all." -Houstonia Magazine Read full review.

"Despite the production's near three-hour run time, captivating performances by American baritone Michael Mayes, who stepped into the titular role with less than a week's notice due to original cast member Brian Mulligan's health complications, Mane Galoyan (as Gilda) and Zoie Reams (Maddalena) dominated Green Room chatter during both - yes, both! - intermissions." from the Houston Chronicle

Read full review. "As outfitted by costume designer Jessica Jahn, Rigoletto in his jester garb looks like a John Wayne Gacy painting come to life. His booming baritone takes on an acid edge when putting the Duke’s retinue in their place, an activity he clearly delights in. But Michael Mayes — a native of nearby Cut and Shoot — plays him as a man for whom years of scorn has bruised his dignity but not his humanity. His devotion to his daughter is obvious, never moreso than their gorgeously intertwining first-act duet...One of the opera’s most uncomfortable, yet exquisite, moments comes after Gilda has spent the night with the Duke and Rigoletto must console his poor embarrassed daughter. Mayes’ performance grows more poignant the further Rigoletto’s plan to avenge Gilda’s honor spins out of control."-Houston Chronicle Read full review. “Baritone Michael Mayes, replacing the ailing Brian Mulligan, cut a commanding figure both vocally and visually as the hunchback Rigoletto on Friday. Changing from his jester outfit to street clothes during the “Pari siamo” monologue, Mayes’ Rigoletto examined his misshapen limbs, while his massive voice revealed the coiled, explosive urges lurking beneath the character’s physical infirmities.And when Rigoletto’s anger and anguish burst, Mayes’ voluminous, resonant tones filled the theater. They lent visceral force to Rigoletto’s “Cortigiani” aria, as the desperate father confronted the courtier gang after Gilda’s kidnapping, and they welled up again to give a hellbent intensity to the father-daughter revenge duet. Mayes’ physical presence — not only when Rigoletto lashed out, but in a couple of falls — accented Rigoletto’s ferocity.But in Rigoletto’s first scene with Gilda, before the trouble broke out, Mayes scaled back those immense tones to sing with a warmth and breadth that exuded Rigoletto’s paternal love. As the fearsome events unfolded, the sheer depth of Mayes’ voice lent a desperate fervor even to lyrical moments.At times, especially in the last scene, Mayes’ singing took on a heaviness that signaled the faltering of Rigoletto’s spirit in the face of his hardships. But the opera’s final moments brought one last, full-throated cri de coeur — including an interpolated high A-flat sailing out through the orchestral blaze.” -Texas Classical Review

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