Lovers of opera celebrated a priceless climb upward when “Rigoletto” ignited two fiery performances in McAllen.

Maestro Mazias de Oliveira, founder and director of South Texas Lyric Opera, organized and conducted Verdi’s immortal “Rigoletto,” Jan. 29 and Feb. 1.

He revived Verdi’s masterpiece by selecting international talent.

Only the fact that the Super Bowl football game occurred on the same date apparently cost having an overflow crowd Feb. 1 at the McAllen Civic Center. More women than men attended. All applauded as long and strong as Valley audiences ever do, it appeared.

This epic of love, passion, betrayal, revenge and tragedy mesmerized the audience. It seemed the best and most powerfully presented of the operas in De Oliveira’s previous four years in charge.

Director Richard Davis , the singers and the staff staged one of the best operas ever to reach the Lower Rio Grande Valley.

Many, perhaps most, operas are grim, but “Rigoletto” deserves a special Dagger Award for depicting life in Italy 500 years ago. The Opera was first performed in Venice in 1858. It would be shocking in a Valley newspaper to reveal all the wild and gory scenes it contains.

Ironically, many of the large chorus sing devoutly in churches, in real life. On this stage they dressed and acted like Italian gang members of five centuries ago.

Few operas match the sordid action, yet the arias offset it, among the top handful of all operas.

Constantinos Yiannoudes, playing the namesake title role of a court jester but a good father, nails this great role on the head of his many-sided Rigoletto. He has wide international experience.

Cristina Piccardi fulfills another vivid performance as Rigoletto’s daughter. She has sparkled in roles in Brazil and the United States. The audience gave this wronged character a long ovation.

The 14 singing roles came from Brazil and across the U.S., including two residents of the Valley, Donnel Dockery as the Countess of Ceprano and Reyna Sylvena Henry as Gianna.

It would take a full newspaper page to describe the action and singing of this classic.

Every lover of opera who missed it will regret it when their friends unanimously tell how professional and heart-breakingly tragic, yet comic and beautiful, this performance was. They will be prepared to see how professional the next South Texas Lyric Opera performance will be, considering the multiple beauties of this one.

The large chorus and dancers performed as deftly as the professionals. Anyone who loves the opera will not regret seeing the new and grown-up South Texas Lyric Opera. In the unlikely event it will stage a great opera again on the same day as the Super Bowl, once again this reviewer will prefer immortal opera to seeing all of a mere football game.

This is becoming an opera company that any American city of McAllen’s size, or much larger, would be proud to have. I have seen operas in California, England and Germany, besides some from several Texas cities. Although no expert, I an not exaggerating how professional this company has become under Mazias de Oliveira’s leadership.