The Dream of Valentino

The silent screen star’s life was brief and tumultuous.

Silent movie star Rudolph Valentino

The Dream of Valentino is the last opera Minnesota composer Dominick Argento wrote. “It was my 13th opera. I don’t know if that’s lucky or unlucky,” Argento, 86, says with a laugh.

Considering it premiered in 1996 at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., we’ll go with lucky. But it was the only one of his works never staged by the Minnesota Opera—until now.

The opera tells the story of silent-movie star Rudolph Valentino, whose career eventually imploded amid persistent rumors of his homosexuality. A 1929 Chicago Tribune article attributed the “feminization of the American male” to Valentino’s influence. He died shortly thereafter at age 31, after a bout of appendicitis.

Argento has been busy tweaking Valentino for the local production. “It was too ambitious,” he says. “Given that it was for Kennedy Center, I got a bit showoffy. It was unnecessarily long in spots, and I’ve been trimming things down.” March 1–9. Ordway Center, 345 Washington St., St. Paul, 612-333-6669,