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Subject: WNO Young Artists' Don Giovanni gives it all in a truly great performance(3-17-17)
From: Alan Savada <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Alan Savada <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Sat, 18 Mar 2017 15:38:56 -0400

text/plain (83 lines)

When an opera companies bills a production as semi-staged, you don't expect a set, fancy costumes,  or for that matter a ton of action on stage. Last night's one performance only of WNO's Don Giovanni was exactly the opposite and delivered in every sense.

Don Giovanni: Michael Adams ‡
Donna Anna: Raquel González ‡
Donna Elvira: Kerriann Otaño ±
Don Ottavio: Rexford Tester ‡
Leporello: Andrew Bogard ‡
Zerlina: Ariana Wehr ‡
Masetto: Hunter Enoch ‡
Commendatore: Timothy J. Bruno ‡
Conductor: Michael Christie
Director: Francesca Zambello
Set Design:Paul Taylor

Lights:AJ Guban

Costumes:Lynly A. Saunders

Musical Prep/Harpsichordists:Paul Jarski‡/Michael Sherman‡ 

‡ Current member of the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program
± Alumnus of the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program

With the constraint of the Champion/Dead Man Walking unit set, Mr. Taylor used the raised walkway at the rear and had multiple columned porticoes with friezes all in front of this. It was simple, but gave the performers doorways and places to hide which is really needed.

The walkway has Don G attacking Donna Anna as the curtain rises and we see Andrew Bogard's slovenly Leporello below dressed in tattered clothes, a woolen cap and stringy hair. While we were treated to his brilliant Figaro earlier this season, the bass-baritone truly excelled here from start to finish in a portrayal that I daresay may become legendary. Our Don was in a sparkly gold and black long coat while Anna fights and scratches at him in a gorgeous huge flowing red gown.

Perhaps due to constraints of the set our Commendatore got up and walked off after he died in a kind of death walk, but then at the end of the opera, he also just pulled Giovanni offstage with no grand "going to hell" move. Perhaps these were the only two points of semi-staging that were not fully realized. Otherwise, we were all truly impressed by the intimate acting and performances.

When Elvira enters Giovanni sniffs so thoroughly you know he can smell a woman, as Leporello sprays his master with cologne for the conquest!  Ms Otano was in black carrying a suitcase, that she had in tow for much of the first act and again at the end of the opera. The wigs for the women were also impressive with piled high hairdos and curls. 

Again I won't go deeply into the signing as it was all so superb from such young talent, and there are sadly no more performances for you to catch (the YA's do Butterfly next in a full staging on May 19). The catalog aria was fun but I loved the way Elvira took the leatherbound book and started to tear out pages before storming off before the aria ends.

As there is a chorus in the opera here we had a small version of WNO choristers dressed in black left and right holding their music; they too were admirable. and also acted a bit to make the scenes more interesting. Mr. Enoch was a forceful yet soft Masetto in his opening "Ho capito signor, si" but his straight-haired wig had single hairs standing on end that made me want to flatten them!

For his Zerlina, Ms. Wehr was more of a starstruck fan and during the Andiam section of "La ci darem la mano" the Maestro had the slowest tempo ever. but the couple seemed to want to move forward. This happened periodically, and surely is the result of only several rehearsals of the work in less than a week! It's amazing it came off this well.

Elvira is at the rear for the ensuing quartet badmouthing Giovanni which was quite funny. Ms. Gonzales, "Or sai che l'onore" had her intent, disgusted and revengeful in a proper procession.

GIovanni's "Finca dal vino" can be so forgotten but Mr.Adams gave us a super execution that was not marred by slow tempo.

Ms. Wehr stole the show with "Batti Batti..." but it was in the ensuing masquerade trio that Mlles. Gonzales and Otano floated such gorgeous high notes.

Leporello's attempts to dance with Masetto were hysterical as well as the act ended with first Ottavio then Anna taking the gun to Giovanni, but both losing nerve and him escaping. 

Act II had Leporello now draped in a ratty woolen cape with Giovanni in a finer black one with feathered hat which they switched as Elvira entered on the upper walkway with a wine cup (I guess if she was tipsy it would be easier to fool her?). Once again, Mr. Bogard's Leporello had the audience in stiches as he tried to imitate Giovanni's instructions on how to serenade and woo Elvira; we were in hysterics and I think it even amused Ms. Otano's Elvira as she had on some quite funny faces watching her "Giovanni." The best way to describe his serenade was something of a cross between disco queen and bad actor; sheer brilliance.

"Deh vieni alla finestra" was delivered to a woman up above(I think it was Ms. Wehr) who never showed her face, but we all had our eyes and ears on Mr. Adams who wooed us as well with his fine delivery.

Mr. Tester's "Il mio Tesoro" was amazing with a legato bridge that intimated he wasn't breathing at all.  "Mi trade" was also a tempo as we worried a lot about that and I felt indeed that our Elvira was delivering the entire aria directly to me with such amazing eye contact.

The Commendatore was above and amazingly clad in a stonelike Grecian Renaissance outfit really looking like a statue.

Ms. Gonzalez  negotiated the treacherous "Non mi dir" with grace and poise of a noblewoman and then the scene moved to Giovanni's with a chair and  small table laden with food. Once again, Mr. Bogard stole the scene grabbing an entire chicken carcass off the table and trying to stuff it in his mouth. Now usually there is a sad plastic turkey leg or such and this was truly amazing. At one point when Giovanni questioned him, he spit a whole mouthful of chicken across the stage and I thought I was going to be covered in it as I was in the first row; I almost jumped! A scene that often can be so boring was totally enjoyable; then the Commendatore arrived and Mr. Bruno's impressive statue in grey stone splotching and cape was amazing with a voice to match.

The confrontation between him and Giovanni seemed to go very fast and he dragged the Don off very unceremoniously as the finale ensued. Of course, Leporello got the final word as he threw the Catalog book off at the very end.

I can't say how much I love going to the YA performances as not only are they impressive, but these are our star singers of tomorrow and I am so proud to have known them as they make their way up the ladder of their vocal careers! BRAVI TUTTI!

We are off to visit our son in Europe, so will be off list for a couple of weeks.....

ALAN SAVADA of Washington, DC

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