Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.







Recently in Performances

Il Trovatore at Dutch National Opera

Four lonely people, bound by love and fate, with inexpressible feelings that boil over in the pressure cooker of war. Àlex Ollé’s conception of Il Trovatore for Dutch National Opera hits the bull’s eye.

The Barber of Seville, ENO London

This may be the twelfth revival of Jonathan Miller’s 1987 production of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville for English National Opera, but the ready laughter from the auditorium and the fresh musical and dramatic responses from the stage suggest that it will continue to amuse audiences and serve the house well for some time to come.

Monteverdi: Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria, Bostridge, Barbican London

The third and final instalment of the Academy of Ancient Music’s survey of Monteverdi’s operas at the Barbican began and ended in darkness; the red glow of the single candle was an apt visual frame for a performance which was dedicated to the memory of the late Andrew Porter, the music critic and writer whose learned, pertinent and eloquent words did so much to restore Monteverdi, Cavalli and other neglected music-dramatists to the operatic stage.

English Touring Opera - Debussy, Massenet and Offenbach

English Touring Opera’s recent programming has been ambitious and inventive, and the results have been rewarding. We had two little-known Donizetti operas, The Siege of Calais and The Wild Man of the West Indies, in spring 2015, while autumn 2014 saw the company stage comedy by Haydn (Il mondo della luna) and romantic history by Handel (Ottone).

Verismo Double Header in Los Angeles

LA Opera got its season off to an auspicious beginning with starry revivals of Gianni Schicchi and Pagliacci.

Viva Verdi at Opera Las Vegas

On September 9, 2015, Opera Las Vegas presented James Sohre’s production of Viva Verdi at the Smith Center’s Cabaret Jazz. It was a delightful evening of arias, duets and ensembles by Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901). The program included many of the composer’s blockbuster arias and scenes from famous operas such as Aida, La traviata, and Macbeth.

Barbera Sings a Fascinating Recital in San Diego

On Saturday, September 19, San Diego Opera opened its 2015-2016 season with a recital by tenor René Barbera. This was the first Polly Puterbaugh Emerging Artist Award Recital and no artist could have been more deserving than the immensely talented Barbera.

Sweeney Todd at the San Francisco Opera

Did the iconic “off-beat” and “serious” American musical hold the stage of the War Memorial Opera House? The excited audience (standees three deep) thought so and roared their appreciation.

Wigmore Hall Complete Schubert Song Series begins with Boesch and Johnson

The Wigmore Hall, London, has launched Schubert : The Complete Songs, a 40-concert series to run through the 2015 and 2016 seasons. There have been Schubert marathons before, like BBC Radio 3's all-Schubert week and The Oxford Lieder Festival's Schubert series last year, but the Wigmore Hall series will be a major landmark because the Wigmore Hall is the Wigmore Hall, the epitome of excellence.

Luisa Miller in San Francisco

Luisa Miller sits on the fringes of the repertory, and since its introduction into the modern repertory in the 1970’s it comes around every 15 or so years. Unfortunately this 2015 San Francisco occasion has not bothered to rethink this remarkable opera.

Salieri: La grotta di Trofonio (Trofonio’s Cave)

Demonised by Pushkin and Peter Shaffer, Antonio Salieri lives in the public imagination as the embittered rival of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart — whose genius he lamented and revered in equal measure, and against whom he schemed and plotted at the Emperor Joseph II’s Viennese court.

Chicago Lyric’s Stars Shine at Millennium Park

The annual concert given by Lyric Opera of Chicago as an outdoor event previewing the forthcoming season took place on 11 September 2015 at Millennium Park.

Gluck: Orphée et Eurydice

Orpheus — that Greek hero whose songs could enchant both deities and beasts, whose lyre has become a metaphor for the power of music itself, and whose journey to the Underworld to rescue his wife, Eurydice, kick-started the art of opera in Mantua in 1607 — has been travelling far and wide around the UK in 2015.

Vaughan Williams and Holst Double Bill

One is a quasi-verbatim rendering of J.M. Synge’s bleak tale of a Donegal family’s fateful dependency on and submission to the deathly power of the sea.

Iestyn Davies at Wigmore Hall

Is there anything that countertenor Iestyn Davies cannot do with his voice?

Prom 75: The Dream of Gerontius

BBC Proms Youth Choir shines in a performance notable for its magical transparency

Prom 67: Bernstein — Stage and Screen

The John Wilson Orchestra have been annual summer visitors to the Royal Albert Hall since their Proms debut in 2009 and, with their seductive blend of technical precision, buoyant glitziness and relaxed insouciance, their concerts have become a hugely anticipated fixture and a sure highlight of the Promenade season.

Prom 65: Alice Coote sings Handel

Disappointing staging mars Alice Coote’s vibrant if wayward musical performance

Santa Fe: Secondary Mozart in First Rate Staging

Impresario Boris Goldovsky famously referred to La finta giardiniera as The Phony Farmerette.

Regimented Daughter in Santa Fe

At Santa Fe Opera, Donizetti’s effervescent The Daughter of the Regiment can’t quite decide what it wants to be when it grows up.



Ildebrando D'Arcangelo (front) as Don Giovanni with Ievgen Orlov as the Commendatore. (Photo: Robert Millard)
09 Oct 2012

Don Giovanni, LA Opera

In our era of minimal cultural restraints Don Giovanni has been the opera of choice for presenting dissolution on stage. Rape, oral sex, drug use and urination have been portrayed to Mozart's melodies.

Don Giovanni, LA Opera

A review by Estelle Gilson

Above: Ildebrando D'Arcangelo (front) as Don Giovanni with Ievgen Orlov as the Commendatore. (Photo: Robert Millard)


How was the singing and conducting? It's hard to know. In such productions, the direction is the topic of interest.

Countering this trend, the Los Angeles Opera Company's second presentation of its season was a plain though not simple Don Giovanni. The production, borrowed from Lyric Opera of Chicago, was created for that company's 50th anniversary season in 2004, by the much-hailed German director Peter Stein with a view to adhering closely to Mozart's music and Da Ponte's words.

Although there's hardly an opera that doesn't — like Don Giovanni — have love, sex and death at its core, it is Da Ponte's unique libretto that has allowed this centuries old work to become a kind of touchstone of an era's cultural tastes. It's title — Il Dissoluto punito, ossia Don Giovanni — dramma giocosa — “The Profligate Punished or Don Giovanni — a playful drama” tells us that we will first see a a man's nasty behavior, then see him punished, and that we'll have a good time watching it all. And sure enough, when the curtain goes up we witness a scuffle after a probable rape, followed immediately by a murder. Subsequently we are exposed to two acts of the protagonist's unrelenting reprehensible conduct, with some laughs thrown in. At the very end we see him get his supernatural comeuppance, and are treated to a fairly merry fugue — a sort of victory song.

“I hate shows where the director is onstage,” Stein is quoted as saying. “I want to follow the intentions of the author as far as I can understand them.” And follow Mozart and Da Ponte he did. Rather than drag Don Giovanni into the 21st century, Stein's production takes its audience back to the time of the opera's creation, and allows us to see and hear what Mozart and Da Ponte were trying to tell us about the characters' words and hearts. Although Stein did not direct the Los Angeles production, director Gregory A. Fortner led the cast in a lively and well paced performance which illuminated the complex interactions between the characters.

The plain, and least attractive aspect of the production are the minimal, flat looking sets that featured occasional cutout doors and windows, and a tiny balcony that had me fearing for Donna Elvira's safety. None of it looked like it was taking place in Spain. Fortunately, the music making was bright enough to light the stage. As Don Giovanni, Ildebrando D'Arcangelo was a slim legged graceful, amoral seducer. His resounding bass-baritone, which reflected his enthusiasm for the role, faltered only once in a surprisingly listless “Fin ch' han dal vino.” Bass-baritone, David Bizic, making his American and Los Angeles debuts as Leporello, was a perfect partner. The two have played these roles opposite each other and it shows. Joshua Bloom, a young Australian bass, also was making his Los Angeles debut, was a properly bumptious Masetto. And Ievgen Orlov, yet another bass (it may surprise you to know that this dramma giocosa features four major bass baritone roles) had the requisite depth and darkness to cause chills in his last encounter with the Don. In the role of Don Ottavio, one of the more thankless in opera (two gorgeous arias, and mostly stand around) tenor Andrej Dunaev, another debutant with the company, demonstrated some lovely legato. The three female roles were equally well filled. Californian Juliana Di Giacomo, making her LA debut as Donna Anna, displayed the grim seriousness and easy coloratura necessary for the role. Finnish soprano Soile Isokoski's silken soprano and acting made her an almost lovable love stricken Donna Elvira. Mezzo Roxanna Constantinescu was appropriately pert and charming as Zerlina.

DnG4235.pngLeft to right: Soile Isokoski as Donna Elvira, David Bizic as Leporello, Roxana Constantinescu as Zerlina, Joshua Bloom as Masetto, Julianna Di Giacomo as Donna Anna, Andrej Dunaev as Don Ottavio. (Photo: Robert Millard)

For all the wonderful acting and singing, one of delights I have in seeing Mozart conducted by James Conlon, is watching him lead vocal ensembles when the soloists are stage forward. Conducting without a baton, it is a joy to follow as he weaves their voices into a gleaming musical fabric.

Quibble department? Only about some excessive humor, particularly a moment when Don Giovanni and Leporello exchange clothing and comically respond to the odors of each others' garments. It's a neat touch, but causes outright audience laughter that drowns out the first phrases of Donna Elvira's “Ah taci, ingiusto core.”

I attended the September 30th performance of Don Giovanni. Performances on October 10 and 14 will be led by Plácido Domingo, with Angela Meade and Micaëla Oeste, making their Los Angeles Opera debuts as Donna Anna and Zerlina, respectively.

Estelle Gilson


Leporello:David Bizic*; Donna Anna:Julianna Di Giacomo*/Angela Meade*; Don Giovanni: Ildebrando D'Arcangelo; Commendatore:Ievgen Orlov; Don Ottavio: Andrej Dunaev; Donna Elvira:Soile Isokoski; Zerlina:Roxana Constnatinescu/Micaëla Oeste*; Masetto:Joshua Bloom*

Conductor: James Conlon/Plácido Domingo
Original Production:Peter Stein*
Diector: Gregory A. Fortner
Set Designer: Ferdinand Wögerbauer*
Costume Designer: Moidele Bickel*
Lighting Designer: Duane Schuler
Chorus Master: Grant Gershon

*Company debut

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):