In Review > North America

Don Giovanni

NEW YORK CITY
Mannes Opera
5/5/12

The May 5 performance of Mannes Opera's briskly entertaining Don Giovanni proved an excellent showcase for the gifted young baritone Ricardo Rivera in the title role. Rivera combined a terrier's boundless energy and tenacity with an easy physicality that allowed him to move smoothly from seductive gentleness to remorseless cruelty. Vocally, the role posed no problems, and he sang with shiny forward tone and clear, conversational diction. He was ably supported by Luis Alvarado's genially put-upon and understated Leporello. 

The other two standout performances came from Liana Guberman as Donna Anna and Adam Bonanni as Don Ottavio. Bonanni, whose robust, colorful tenor made blissful work of his two arias, projected dignity and the natural authority of privilege, so that, for once, Don Ottavio actually seemed to be in charge. His aura of chaste propriety, combined with his obvious adoration of Donna Anna, explained both the dynamic between them and her lapse with Don Giovanni. For in this production, Donna Anna was, at least for a moment and in full view of the audience, a willing participant in her seduction. Guberman allowed that moment to fully humanize her, which made Donna Anna a culpable, sensual and relatable woman rather than the cipher she so often is. Bonanni's reactions to her tenderly persuasive "Non mi dir" made the moment a poignant scene rather than a diva showpiece, and their relationship became a tragic casualty of Giovanni's recklessness.

The other performances were all enjoyable, though they fell more squarely into the category of laudable student efforts. Donna Elvira sits a bit low for Ashley Harrington, although she put over a convincing and accurately sung "Mi tradì." In general, however, she seemed unsure how to fill the many musical interludes between Elvira's outbursts, resorting to stagy gestures rather than summoning up any real emotion. Lydia Dahling was a cute-as-a-button, sweet-voiced Zerlina, but, like Harrington, she ventured no further than she was directed. There was no internal struggle going on during "Là ci darem la mano," nor did she mine her arias for the textual specificity that signifies subtle power shifts. Samuel Hinkle was a boyish, forthright and sympathetic Masetto, and if his delivery was a bit studied, it only added an appropriate stolidity to his character. David Leigh's lanky height made him a formidable presence as the Commendatore, and he sang with steely precision.

Director Laura Alley did a superb job, drawing on her performers' strengths and keeping the action moving. Conductor Joseph Colaneri drew a passionate, if occasionally scrappy, performance from the Mannes Orchestra and most of the time was able to rein in his overexcited singers, all of whom rushed at one point or another. Helen E. Rodgers contributed suitably attractive costumes, while Roger Hanna's arches and ramps supplied the requisite number of hiding places and allowed for elegant stage pictures. Brian Barnett's lighting skillfully suggested different times of day; nowhere was it more effective than during Don Giovanni's descent into hell. Combined with the menacing men's chorus and Rivera's eloquently painful cries of torment, the Don's final moments were as thrilling as they should be. spacer

JOANNE SYDNEY LESSNER

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