Sunday, September 09, 2007

OPERA: "Don Giovanni"

Photo/Carol Rosegg

Although Don Giovanni is part of the opera-for-all program at New York City Opera, I guess it will always be that opera just isn't for all. In Hal Prince's production the limp trees are well-met by the limpid supertitles, and Susan Stroman's choreography, deliberate and symmetrical, could've come from a school on formless etiquette. Opera is built on long stretches of exposition, and nothing is ever said or done easily, but the trade off is that these sometimes mundane things are at least beautiful in the undertaking. Well, the only thing beautiful is the undertaking of Don Giovanni's soul, by a fantastically costumed Statue (the makeup artist ought to be credited). There are voices that are phenomenal, like Julianna Di Giacomo's Donna Elvira -- but squinting across miles of rows to see her pained expression takes away from what you hear in her soul. And you can tell that Daniel Mobbs is properly hamming up Leporello--you even laugh here and there, yourself--but when he sings, the orchestra washes his low baritone away. The debut performances of Mardi Byers, Aaron St. Clair Nicholson, and JiYoung Li (Donna Anna, Don Giovanni, and Zerlina) are perfunctory, with moments of mellifluousness, but nothing that you would call a breakout. I don't claim to be an expert on opera, so take this sand-grained post as opinion more than review, but this traditional Don Giovanni seemed to lack soul from the start.

NOTE: For more information on New York City Opera's inspired and ambitious, season-long OPERA-FOR-ALL program of $25 orchestra tickets, you can read my thoughts at metaDRAMA or just skip directly to their ordering site, here.

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