Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Prom 9: Fidelio lives by its Florestan

The last time Beethoven’s sole opera, Fidelio, was performed at the Proms, in 2009, Daniel Barenboim was making a somewhat belated London opera debut with his West-Eastern Divan Orchestra.

The Merchant of Venice: WNO at Covent Garden

In Out of Africa, her account of her Kenyan life, Karen Blixen relates an anecdote, ‘Farah and The Merchant of Venice’. When Blixen told Farah Aden, her Somali butler, the story of Shakespeare’s play, he was disappointed and surprised by the denouement: surely, he argued, the Jew Shylock could have succeeded in his bond if he had used a red-hot knife? As an African, Farah expected a different narrative, demonstrating that our reception of art depends so much on our assumptions and preconceptions.

Leoncavallo's Zazà at Investec Opera Holland Park

The make-up is slapped on thickly in this new production of Leoncavallo’s Zazà by director Marie Lambert and designer Alyson Cummings at Investec Opera Holland Park.

McVicar’s Enchanting but Caliginous Rigoletto in Castle Olavinlinna at Savonlinna Opera Festival

David McVicar’s thrilling take on Verdi’s Rigoletto premiered as the first international production of this Summer’s Savonlinna Opera Festival. The scouts for the festival made the smart decision to let McVicar adapt his 2001 Covent Garden staging to the unique locale of Castle Olavinlinna.

Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance at Covent Garden

The end of the ROH’s summer season was marked as usual by the Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance but this year’s showcase was a little lacklustre at times.

Sallinen’s Kullervo is Brutal and Spectacular Finnish Opera at Savonlinna Opera Festival

For the centenary of Finland’s Independence, the Savonlinna Opera Festival brought back Kari Heiskanen’s spectacular 1992 production of Aulis Salinen’s Kullervo. The excellent Finnish soloists and glorious choir unflinchingly offered this opera of vocal blood and guts. Conductor Hannu Lintu fired up the Savonlinna Opera Festival Orchestra in Sallinen’s thrilling music.

Kát’a Kabanová at Investec Opera Holland Park

If there was any doubt of the insignificance of mankind in the face of the forces of Nature, then Yannis Thavoris’ design for Olivia Fuchs production of Janáček’s Kát’a Kabanová - first seen at Investec Opera Holland Park in 2009 - would puncture it in a flash, figuratively and literally.

A bel canto feast at Cadogan Hall

The bel canto repertoire requires stylish singing, with beautiful tone and elegant phrasing. Strength must be allied with grace in order to coast the vocal peaks with unflawed legato; flexibility blended with accuracy ensures the most bravura passages are negotiated with apparent ease.

Don Pasquale: a cold-hearted comedy at Glyndebourne

Director Mariame Clément’s Don Pasquale, first seen during the 2011 tour and staged in the house in 2013, treads a fine line between realism and artifice.

Billy Budd Indomitable in Des Moines

It is hard to know where to begin to praise the peerless accomplishment that is Des Moines Metro Opera’s staggeringly powerful Billy Budd.

Tannhäuser at Munich

Romeo Castellucci’s aesthetic — if one may speak in the singular — is very different from almost anything else on show in the opera house at the moment. That, I have no doubt, is unquestionably a good thing. Castellucci is a serious artist and it is all too easy for any of us to become stuck in an artistic rut, congratulating ourselves not only on our understanding but also,  may God help us, our ‘taste’ — as if so trivial a notion had something to do with anything other than ourselves.

Des Moines Answers Turandot’s Riddles

With Turandot, Des Moines Metro Opera operated from the premise of prima la voce, and if the no-holds-barred singing and rhapsodic playing didn’t send shivers down your spine, well, you were at the wrong address.

Maria Visits Des Moines

With an atmospheric, crackling performance of Astor Piazzolla’s Maria de Buenos Aires, Des Moines Metro Opera once again set off creative sparks with its Second Stage concept.

Die schöne Müllerin: Davies and Drake provoke fresh thoughts at Middle Temple Hall

Schubert wrote Die schöne Müllerin (1824) for a tenor (or soprano) range - that of his own voice. Wilhelm Müller’s poems depict the youthful unsophistication of a country lad who, wandering with carefree unworldliness besides a burbling stream, comes upon a watermill, espies the miller’s fetching daughter and promptly falls in love - only to be disillusioned when she spurns him for a virile hunter. So, perhaps the tenor voice possesses the requisite combination of lightness and yearning to convey this trajectory from guileless innocence to disenchantment and dejection.

World Premiere of Aulis Sallinen’s Castle in the Water Savonlinna Opera Festival

For my first trip to Finland, I flew from Helsinki to the east, close to the border of Russia near St. Petersburg over many of Suomi’s thousand lakes, where the summer getaway Savonlinna lays. Right after the solstice during July and early August, the town’s opera festival offers high quality productions. In this enchanting locale in the midst of peaceful nature, the sky at dusk after the mesmerising sunset fades away is worth the trip alone!

Mozart and Stravinsky in Aix

Bathed in Mediterranean light, basking in enlightenment Aix found two famous classical works, Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress in its famous festival’s open air Théâtre de l’Archevêche. But were we enlightened?

Des Moines: Nothing ‘Little’ About Night Music

Des Moines Metro Opera’s richly detailed production of Sondheim’s A Little Night Music left an appreciative audience to waltz home on air, and has prompted this viewer to search for adequate superlatives.

Longborough Festival Opera: A World Class Tristan und Isolde in a Barn Shed

Of all the places, I did not expect a sublime Tristan und Isolde in a repurposed barn in the Cotswolds. Don’t be fooled by Longborough’s stage without lavish red curtains to open and close each act. Any opera house would envy the riveting chemistry between Peter Wedd and Lee Bisset in this intimate, 500 seat setting. Conductor Anthony Negus proved himself a master at Wagner’s emotional depth. Epic drama in minimalistic elegance: who needs a big budget when you have talent and drama this passionate?

The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra throws a glossy Bernstein party

For almost thirty years, summer at the Concertgebouw has been synonymous with Robeco SummerNights. This popular series expands the classical concert formula with pop, film music, jazz and more, served straight up or mixed together. Composer Leonard Bernstein’s versatility makes his oeuvre, ranging from Broadway to opera, prime SummerNight fare.

Die Frau ohne Schatten at Munich

It was fascinating to see — and of course, to hear — Krzysztof Warlikowsi’s productions of Die Gezeichneten and Die Frau ohne Schatten on consecutive nights of this year’s Munich Opera Festival.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Asraf Sewailam as Leporello and Myrtò Papatanasiu as Donna Elvira [Photo by Cory Weaver]
24 Feb 2015

San Diego Opera presents an excellent Don Giovanni

On Friday February 20, 2015, San Diego Opera presented Mozart’s Don Giovanni in a production by Nicholas Muni originally seen at Cincinnati Opera.

San Diego Opera presents an excellent Don Giovanni

A review by Maria Nockin

Above: Asraf Sewailam as Leporello and Myrtò Papatanasiu as Donna Elvira

Photos by Cory Weaver

 

Muni designed the simple sets, directed the concentrated action and translated da Ponte’s text into interesting supertitles. In this production, Ildebrando D’Arcangelo’s Don was a bon vivant as well as a womanizer who sang with consistently satisfying resonant, polished tones.

Lorenzo da Ponte wrote the libretto for Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni, basing his text on various legends about the famous Spanish seducer. Evidence suggests that the first fully dramatized version of the story was by a monk, Tirso de Molina (1579-1648), who published El burlador de Sevilla y convidado de piedra (‘The Trickster of Seville and the Stone Guest’) in 1630. Readers may remember that da Ponte was once ordained as a priest. De Molina’s Don goes to Hell as does the title character of José Espronceda's 1840 poem El estudiante de Salamanca (‘The Student of Salamanca’), but some versions of the legend end differently. The protagonist in José Zorrilla's 1844 play Don Juan Tenorio, receives a divine pardon.

_b5a0 c weaver  sdo 802.pngIldebrando D’Arcangelo as Don Giovanni and Myrtò Papatanasiu as Donna Elvira

On Friday February 20, 2015, San Diego Opera presented Mozart’s Don Giovanni in a production by Nicholas Muni originally seen at Cincinnati Opera. Muni designed the simple sets, directed the concentrated action and translated da Ponte’s text into interesting supertitles. In this production, Ildebrando D’Arcangelo’s Don was a bon vivant as well as a womanizer who sang with consistently satisfying resonant, polished tones. A congenial Don, many in the audience would have preferred to sit down and have a beer with him rather than see him dragged off to eternal damnation.

In this opera many of the characters are conflicted. Often, they sing one idea while their music plays another. That gives the artist a great deal of room for characterization and many of them made fine portrayals. Especially believable was the Leporello of Ashraf Sewailam. Not only did he sing well, he never stopped moving. While his Catalog Aria thoroughly offended Donna Elvira, it fascinated the audience who gave it a well-deserved hand of applause. What is most amazing is that Sewailam was a last minute substitute. He is a most valuable artist indeed.

We will never know whether Donna Anna wanted to get away from the Don as she says, or if she secretly wanted to enjoy his advances as her music suggests. Ellie Dehn registered a wide range of emotional shifts with great delicacy while singing with glinting sonorities. As her fiancé Don Ottavio, Paul Appleby sang with radiant tones spun out in a stunningly beautiful legato. He is definitely a young singer to watch.

Myrtò Papatanasiu was a feisty Donna Elvira who thought she could change the Don’s ways. Like many women before and since, she found it could not be done, but she learned her lesson while singing with honeyed tones. Emily Fons and Kristopher Irmiter were most believable as Zerlina and her bridegroom, Masetto. Fons, who was a member of the young artist program at the Lyric Opera of Chicago from 2010 to 2012, seems to be at the onset of a most impressive career. Her singing was an iridescent wave of vocal color as she captured her character’s delicious moments of indecision. Kristopher Irmiter was a bold peasant who had to deal with the fact that a nobleman like the Don could kill him with impunity. Bass Reinhard Hagen sang the Commendatore’s low notes with thrust as he energized their text with conviction.

Chorus Master Charles Prestinari’s chorus sang in subtle harmonies and imbued the text with nuanced emotions. Dorothy Randall's alert and stylish playing made the recitatives a joy to hear. Although conductor Daniele Callegari seemed to have a rather loose concept of the architecture of the opera, he held stage and pit together while allowing the singers enough room to breathe and emote. The resurrected San Diego Opera certainly put together a hit with this performance of the Mozart masterwork.

Maria Nockin


Cast and production information:

Leporello, Ashraf Sewailam; Don Giovanni, IldebrandoD’Arcangelo; Donna Anna, Ellie Dehn; Commendatore, Reinhard Hagen; Don Ottavio, Paul Appleby; Donna Elvira, Myrtò Papatanasiu; Zerlina, Emily Fons; Masetto, Kristopher Irmiter; Conductor, Daniele Callegari; Director, Set Designer, Paul Muni; Costume Designer, David Burdick; Lighting Designer, Thomas C. Hase; Chorus Master, Charles Prestinari.

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):