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Don Giovanni

San Diego Opera

The production of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Don Giovanni mounted by San Diego Opera (seen Feb. 20) presented a talented and attractive company that sang and acted impressively. The ensemble was as fine as any ever assembled by SDO in recent memory. Designed and directed by Nicholas Muni, this Carmen was set in a timeless art gallery filled with Degas works. It was splendid in appearance and so facile that the opera, with no scene-change breaks and briskly conducted by Daniele Callegari, clocked in at a mere three hours and fifteen minutes.

Vocally and physically tempestuous in the title role, Ildebrando D’Arcangelo — a recent interpreter of the voracious lover at Deutsche Oper Berlin, Vienna Staatsoper, and La Scala, among others — was to costume designer David Burdick’s leather born. No slouch in the sequential wooer department, his Don Giovanni was not so much evil incarnate as mere spread-the-wealth, unbridled libido. 

Don Giovanni’s attendant Leporello — half appalled and half envious — was impressively portrayed by Egyptian bass-baritone Ashraf Sewailam, who created a subtle comedic gait and demeanor that juxtaposed a facile, dark-hued tone. Sewailam replaced Alex Esposito, who withdrew for medical reasons.

Paul Appleby provided a beautifully sung, dramatically effective Ottavio (a meltingly lovely “Dalla sua pace”); Reinhard Hagen a distinctive Commendatore; and Kristopher Irmiter, an especially naive Masetto, whose Zerlina, Emily Fons, made a winning company debut, not silly or nymphomaniacal, somehow just right, supporting her character with vocal intelligence. Her conciliatory “Batti, batti” was a highlight.

My only reservation, was that the two fine sopranos, Ellie Dehn and Myrtò Papatanasiu, in the roles of Donna Anna and Donna Elvira respectively, were on the exactly the same page vocally. (I am accustomed to hearing a dramatic coloratura as Anna and a spinto as Elvira). Each delivered accurate and dreamy high pianissimos, but neither neither had the mid-range heft nor the pyrotechnical prowess required for their roles. In this production, these two truly different characters — the Giovanni-obsessed Donna Elvira and the grieving and vengeful Donna Anna — had little to distinguish them from each other dramatically or visually.

Trained by Charles Prestinari, the twenty-four-member SDO chorus acquitted itself well musically under the baton of Daniele Callegari, and along with a dozen supers took on a variety of interesting personae — some of them quite athletic and sensuous. After all, Don Giovanni aims to pleasure all ages — Muni’s production pleasured many. spacer 


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