Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.







Recently in Performances

Probing Bernstein and MacMillan double bill in Amsterdam

The Opera Forward Festival (OFF) in Amsterdam is about new things: new compositions, rediscovered works and new faces. This year’s program included a double bill produced by Dutch National Opera’s talent development wing. Leonard Bernstein’s portrait of a miserable marriage in affluent suburbia, Trouble in Tahiti, was the contrasting companion piece to James McMillan’s Clemency, a study of the sinister side of religious belief.

Macbeth in Lyon

A revival of the Opéra de Lyon’s 2012 Occupy Wall St. production of Verdi’s 1865 Macbeth, transforming naive commentary into strange irony, some high art included.

Barber of Seville Is Fun in Tucson

On March 4, 2018, Arizona Opera presented Gioachino Rossini’s The Barber of Seville in Tucson. Allen Moyer designed the bright and happy scenery for performances at Minnesota Opera,

Moody, Mysterious Morel

Long Beach Opera often takes willing audiences on an unexpected journey and such is undeniably the case with its fascinating traversal of The Invention of Morel.

Acis and Galatea: 2018 London Handel Festival

Katie Hawks makes quite a claim for Handel’s Acis and Galatea when, in her programme article, she describes it as the composer’s ‘most perfect work’. Surely, one might feel, this is a somewhat hyperbolic evaluation of a 90-minute pastoral masque, or serenade, based on an episode from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, which has its origins in a private entertainment?

Oriana, Fairest Queen: Stile Antico celebrate the life and times of Elizabeth I

Stile Antico’s lunchtime play-list, celebrating the Virgin Queen’s long reign, shuffled between sacred and secular works, from penitential to patriotic, from sensual to celebratory.

Daniel Kramer's new La traviata at English National Opera

Verdi's La traviata is one of those opera which every opera company needs to have in its repertoire, and productions need to balance intelligent exploration of the issues raised by the work with the need to reach as wide an audience as possible with an opera which is likely to attract audience members who are not regular opera-goers.

Haydn's Applausus: The Mozartists at Cadogan Hall

Continuing their MOZART 250 series, The Mozartists/ Classical Opera began dipping into the operatic offerings of 1768 at Wigmore Hall in January, when they presented numbers from Mozart’s La finta semplice, Jommelli’s Fetonte, Hasse’s Pirano e Tisbe and Haydn’s Lo speziale.

Schubert Schwanengesang revisited—Florian Boesch, Wigmore Hall

Schwanengesang isn't Schubert's Swan Song any more than it is a cycle like Die schöne Müllerin or Winterreise. The title was given it by his publishers Haslingers, after his death, combining settings of two very different poets, Ludwig Rellstab and Heinrich Heine. Wigmore Hall audiences have heard lots of good Schwanengesangs, including Boesch and Martineau performances in the past, but this was something special.

Rinaldo: The English Concert at the Barbican Hall

“After such cruel events, I don’t know if I am dreaming or awake.” So says Almirena, daughter of the Crusader Goffredo, when she is rescued by her beloved warrior-hero, Rinaldo, from the clutches of the evil sorceress, Armida.

Hamlet abridged and enriched in Amsterdam

French grand opera and small opera companies are an unlikely combination. Yet OPERA2DAY, a company of modest means, is currently touring the Netherlands with Hamlet by Ambroise Thomas.

The ROH's first production of From the House of the Dead

Krzysztof Warlikowski’s production for the ROH of From the House of the Dead is ‘new’ in several regards. It’s (astonishingly) the first time that Janáček’s last opera has been staged at Covent Garden; it’s Warlikowski’s debut at Covent Garden; and the production uses a new 2017 critical edition prepared by John Tyrrell.

Così fan tutte at Lyric Opera of Chicago

With artifice, disguise, and questions on fidelity as the basis of Mozart’s Così fan tutte, the composer’s mature opera has returned to the stage at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

WNO's Wheel of Destiny rolls into Birmingham

Welsh National Opera’s wheel of destiny has rolled into Birmingham this week, with Verdi’s sprawling tragedy, La forza del destino, opening the company’s ‘Rabble Rousing’ triptych at the Hippodrome.

A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Royal College of Music

The gossamer web of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is sufficiently insubstantial and ambiguous to embrace multiple interpretative readings: the play can be a charming comic caper, a jangling journey through human pettiness and cruelty, a moonlit fairy fantasy or a shadowy erotic nightmare, and much more besides.

Robert Carsen's A Midsummer Night's Dream returns to ENO

Having given us Christopher Alden's strangely dystopic production of Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream in 2011, English National Opera (ENO) has opted for Robert Carsen's bed-inspired vision for the latest revival of the opera at the London Coliseum.

Turandot in San Diego—Prima la voce

The big musical set pieces in Turandot require voice, voice, and more voice, and San Diego Opera has gifted us with a world-class cast of singing actors.

Dialogues de Carmélites at the Guildhall School: spiritual transcendence and transfiguration

Four years have passed since my last Dialogues des Carmélites, and on that occasion - Robert Carsen’s production for the ROH - heightened dramatic intensity, revolutionary insurrection (enhanced by an oppressed populace formed by a 67-strong Community Ensemble) and, under the baton of Simon Rattle, luxuriant musical rapture, were the order of the day.

'B & B’ in a new key

Seattle Opera’s new production of Béatrice et Bénédict is best regarded as a noble experiment, performed expressly to see if Berlioz’ delectable 1862 opéra comique can successfully be brought into the living repertory outside its native France. As such, it is quite a success.

Of Animals and Insects: a musical menagerie at Wigmore Hall

Wigmore Hall was transformed into a musical menagerie earlier this week, when bass-baritone Ashley Riches, a Radio 3 New Generation Artist, and pianist Joseph Middleton took us on a pan-European lunchtime stroll through a gallery of birds and beasts, blooms and bugs.



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):