“Don Giovanni” seduces with devilish, elegant charm – LA, 27th November 2007

by Madeleine Shaner (Reuters)

«Mozart played dice with his characters in his exalted opera “Don Giovanni,” breaking the rules of theater, morality and custom. The trickster, seducer and rapist never realistically gets his come-uppance because he’s an antihero of such charm and force that he’s irresistible, even to those who have suffered at his hands.

Playing the colorful role is the force of nature himself, Erwin Schrott, who made his L.A. Opera debut in the role in 2003. He’s magnificently devilish, charming and irresistible, so attuned to his reprehensible role that he doesn’t seem like the bad guy at all. Maybe because of its combination of wit, drama, satire, farce, tragedy and some undeniably sublime music, “Don Giovanni” is one of the most comedic, dramatic and entertaining of operas.

Under the direction of Mariusz Trelinski (who directed it here in 2003), it becomes, in perhaps the most suitable way, director’s theater, categorized by the elegant and amusing use of all the elements that go into the makeover of a well-known beauty.

Boris F. Kudlika’s amazing set design, Arkadius’ fantastical, weird and wonderful costumes and Brian Gale’s exquisite lighting all have important roles in the production. It seems all those elements have come out to play. While acknowledging its 17th century origins and huge nod to Expressionism, the Don, as the opera is familiarly referred to, is new again. If the characters have become caricatures, it’s clear that was intentional, and always amusing, though strategic cuts in the second act might avert the lengthy anticlimax.

As Ottavio, Charles Castronovo, a very high tenor, is outstanding in the lovely “Il mio tesoro” as he asks heaven to protect his fiancee, Donna Anna (Alexandra Deshorties), whose father’s death, at the hands of Giovanni, is the tinder that lights the fires of hell under the hellion. Deshorties as the cool, unapproachable beauty has to deal with Mozart’s too-cool arias, unfortunately achieving the pitch but not necessarily the tone of the emotion-driven woman. Kyle Ketelsen, as abused servant/fool Leporello, delivers his role with fine humor. His accounting of his master’s 2,065 conquests, in “Madamina! Il catalogo e questo,” is a highlight of the first act.

Lauren McNeese and James Creswell (as the new bride, Zerlina, and her cuckolded groom, Masetto) cutely represent the economic underclass who are beneath the notice but not the exploitation of the arrogant sexual braggart. McNeese joins Schrott splendidly in the familiar “La ci darem la mano.”

Maria Kanyova is lively as the seduced and abandoned Donna Elvira, who can’t stay away from Giovanni’s fire.

The L.A. Opera Orchestra, under the controlled baton of Hartmut Haenchen, joins the fun onstage but can’t top the extreme visual battery of the overwhelming design, costumes, lighting and inventiveness of the production.»

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