‘Don Giovanni’ at The Lyric Opera House by Amanda Gunther

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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s famous Don Giovanni is being presented for a limited engagement at The Patricia and Arthur Modell Performing Arts Center at The Lyric Opera House. In conjunction with The Peabody Opera Theatre, this performance encompasses the incandescent rage of the 18th century, captured as only Mozart’s work could do. With superior voices and a brilliant orchestra the score leaps to life from the pages of music upon the musician’s stands, playing out in full vivacious color right before your eyes. With Conductor Leonardo Vordoni at the helm of the orchestra and Roger Brunyate as Stage Director, this performance will quickly sweep into your hearts as a professional quality gem shining brightly with intense emotions and equally captivating sounds.

The immediate ominous swell of the overture which quickly softens into a haunting, captivating melody sends a wave of rich sound washing out over the audience, as if a spirit of malice and misfortune has possessed the instruments themselves, warning the audience of the dark and foreboding show that is about to unfold upon the stage. Conductor Leonardo Vordoni executes a flawless sound from the orchestra, every note achieved with finely tuned precision. Vordoni presents each blissful rush of music with a passionate individuality that race from the sultry strings across the muted brass and dips with whispers across the wind section. The breathtaking orchestrations that resonate up from the pit cause swells of emotion to rise and crash over all who listen; drawing you deeply into the eye of the storm before the show has even begun.

Vordoni’s vigorous passion is tempered with emotional restraint, allowing segments to build and build until they reach the height of their climax before exploding into a full swing of sounds that take the audience as an aural prisoner to their irresistible sounds. The perfect balance is achieved in Vordoni’s conducting, never overpowering the singers on stage, often creating an impeccable pairing of accentuations with the instrumentations rather than simply guiding the orchestra to play along with the singers. The music is rapturous; an intoxicating bout of desire that sweeps up and becomes embodied upon the stage by the singers, as if music had taken human form and its dance partner were the performers.

Zerlina (Janna Critz) bubbles with a bright dainty sound that is as light and airy fairy as the nubile love for Masetto (Seonghyeon Park) that blossoms in her naïve bosom. Critz’s simplistic approach to the ingénue soprano role is divine, allowing the raw emotions of her predicament to shine through without getting lost in the upper register, especially during her duet with the Don, “Là Ci Darem La Mano.” She masters a moment of lyrical dissonance during “Batti, Batti O Bel Masetto”; a pleasant and jovial aria in tune with words that beg her lover to beat and maim her. Critz’s performance is delightful and inspires the joys of young love for all to hear.

The polar opposite of the cheery young girl is Donna Anna (Huanhuan Ma.) She is gripped by her emotions as if they are an invisible hand that clutches around her body and guides her physical responses to what happens in the story. Ma’s staggering tragedy over discovering her slain father throws her into a downward spiral of depression and grief, echoed every time she sings, be it aria or with other members of the show. Her aria “Or Sai Chi l’onore Rapire A Me Voles” is rich with the agony of her plight and while this deep seeded woe and strife consume her, it is never simply one note of expression. Ma runs the gambit of the darkened sorrowful emotions, each finding a home in her physical and vocal expressions.

Completing the triangle of woman in this show is Donna Elvira (Alexandra Razskazoff.) The old saying that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned is incarnate in Razskazoff’s portrayal of the woman burned by Giovanni’s advances. When we first hear her aria “Ah, Chi Mi Dice Mai” the depths to which she has been wronged surface with a vehement surge of emotion. Her character is not only scorned but torn in twain by the fiery urge of vengeance that engulfs her and the desperate love that burns wildly in her breast for the man that has so wronged her, desperately threatening to consume her.

Razskazoff’s moment of foreshadowing occurs with a foreboding chill, her body writhing in uncertain agony as the notion of her nightmare and dawning realizations fill her head to the point of erupting, which she does so vocally during “Non Mi Dir”; a sound mingled with a thousand complex and confusing feelings pouring from her mouth all at once. She is the stellar leading female among the three and is well deserving of an encore.

And lastly we come to the title character, and his semi-comic sidekick, Leporello (Jeffrey Martin.) Getting to engage his stage presence with a lighter side of the drama, Martin shows a mastery of imploring comic devices in opera without falling into the traps of a caricaturized presentation. With a powerful voice and vivid facial expressions he creates a good foil to Don Giovanni and makes for brilliant comic relief throughout the performance. Martin flawlessly switches gears from the comic apish servant to the man terrified by the unholy appearance of the statue; showing his myriad of expressive abilities with ease.

Don Giovanni (Jeffrey Grayson Gates) is the rogue, the rake, the scoundrel. A deep baritone prince of the stage, Gates commands the role with a thundering presence, stealing innocence from all who listen with a simple nod of his head, thrust of his chest, and quirk of the lips. While ever the passionate lover, Gates introduces us to a softer sweeter side of the rapscallion during his moonlit serenade “Deh Vieni Alla Finestra”; a gentle crooning as flossy as cotton candy and equally as saccharine, this moment forces you to fall head over heels in love with the man, which is naturally all a part of his devilish ploy. His voice melds perfectly into every duet, especially “Là Ci Darem La Mano” sung with Zerlina. And his arias are sublime; a performance not to be missed if it can be helped.

Running Time: Three hours with one 20-minute intermission.

Don Giovanni played two performances on November 16 and 18, 2012 at The Patricia and Arthur Modell Performing Arts Center at The Lyric – l110 W. Mount Royal Avenue in Baltimore, MD. To view upcoming performances visit the Lyric Opera House homepage.

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Amanda Gunther is an actress, a writer, and loves the theatre. She graduated with her BFA in acting from the University of Maryland Baltimore County and spent two years studying abroad in Sydney, Australia at the University of New South Wales. Her time spent in Sydney taught her a lot about the performing arts, from Improv Comedy to performance art drama done completely in the dark. She loves theatre of all kinds, but loves musicals the best. When she’s not working, if she’s not at the theatre, you can usually find her reading a book, working on ideas for her own books, or just relaxing and taking in the sights and sounds of her Baltimore hometown. She loves to travel, exploring new venues for performing arts and other leisurely activities. Writing for the DCMetroTheaterArts as a Senior Writer gives her a chance to pursue her passion of the theatre and will broaden her horizons in the writer’s field.