Giovanni From a Fresh Perspective

St. Louis, MO – As found in Opera Theatre of Saint Louis’ production of The Daughter of the Regiment (review»), the company’s Don Giovanni was equally, if not more enjoyable due to a cast of excellent singing actors.

The brilliance of Mozart’s Don Giovanni is found in the juxtaposition of the overall dramatic, dark tones of the opera with many humorous moments. This contrast in themes allows the artists to dive deep within these, sometimes, complex characters and take the audience on an incredible journey through the opera. The cast of this production did just that.

Each singer gave a convincing performance but Elliot Madore, as Giovanni, was by far the star of the evening. Even though the character of Giovanni is after one thing the entire opera, women, Madore was able to expose a complex Don.  Madore’s voice is smooth and he never allows his singing to become “shouty” as sometimes happens with other singers when singing Giovanni. The co-stage directors, James Robinson and Michael Shell, added another layer to Madore’s portrayal of Giovanni by creating moments throughout the opera when the Don was visited by ghosts (beyond the Commendatore’s visit). Distracting at times, this addition of characters allowed the audience to see an even more deranged sociopath than is usually portrayed.

The rest of the cast contributed a great deal of beautiful singing and acting to this memorable production. Levi Hernandez, who played Leporello, came close to stealing the show. His strong baritone voice and great comedic timing was a real treat. The trio of women, that are affected by Giovanni at some point in the opera, gave engaging performances. Maria Kanyova played the steadfast Donna Anna, Kathryn Leemhuis the naïve Zerlina and Kishani Jayasinghe, in a very honest and captivating performance, played Donna Elvira.

Sung in an English translation, as is the company’s tradition, Don Giovanni seemed to be presented from a fresh perspective and it was far more welcoming than hearing Donizetti in English.  For example, listening to Zerlina’s aria, “Beat me, beat me, dear Masetto,” (“Batti, batti oh bel Masetto”) becomes somewhat more meaningful and entertaining.  However, for my ear, the Italian is much better suited for vocal production. As was the case with David Portillo, who played the unforgiving role of Don Ottavio. Portillo has an extremely pleasing voice but there was something askew in his aria “Il mio Tesoro,” the long legato lines sound much better in Italian.

The only disappointment of the evening was knowing that I would be missing out on the other two productions of Opera Theatre of Saint Louis’ highly acclaimed 2011 festival season: Debussy’s Pelléas and Mélisande and John Adams’ The Death of Klinghoffer. The festival ended on June 26th .  Be sure to make plans for next year’s exciting festival: Carmen, Sweeney Todd, Così van tutte and Alice in Wonderland. Experience opera in an intimate setting like Opera Theatre of Saint Louis presents and you may never look at the art form the same way!

Photo: Ken Howard, 2011

Review – Opera Theatre of St. Louis’ Daughter of the Regiment »

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