The Mannes Opera presented a most worthy production of Don Giovanni at the Hunter College Kaye Playhouse with Artistic Director Maestro Joseph Colaneri, well known from The Met and from New York City Opera, eliciting a fine performance from the Mannes Orchestra. Having reviewed the same opera presented last week by The Juilliard School and two months ago (and previously last November) at the Met, I wasn't sure I wanted to see it once again. But I did and I was glad I did. The Mannes Opera showed itself to be at the same high level as Juilliard and the Manhattan School of Music.
From the strong opening chords of the overture followed by ascending and descending scale passages we knew we were in good hands. The uniformly excellent singers are either in the Professional Studies Diploma Program or candidates for a Masters in Music degree. We were especially impressed by the comic timing of South Korean baritone Dongkyu Oh who delighted as Leporello. His fellow countryman Suchan Kim made a fine Don Giovanni, although we wish we hadn't read the program notes implying a different interpretation of the role; to us he seemed like the customary manipulative rogue he always was. The role of Don Ottavio was beautifully sung by tenor Adam Bonanni whom we well recall from the Opera Index competition. We were overjoyed that both arias were included and sung with a fine legato and an enviable pianissimo where called for. Bulgarian Miloslav Antonov sang Massetto and The Commendatore was sung by David Leigh.
The female members of the cast were equally excellent. Soprano D'Ana Lombard assailed her high lying notes with precision and gave an excellent portrait of Donna Anna, a grieving daughter and reluctant fiancée; her "Non mi dir" was a real show-stopper. Soprano Claire Kuttler was a spunky Donna Elvira, deftly showing her ambivalence towards our anti-hero; we enjoyed her "Mi tradi quell'alma ingrata". The winsome soprano Kirsten Scott made a charming Zerlina, shining brightly in both her arias. Everyone included some very graceful decorations in the ritornelli. Duets and ensembles were equally delightful.
Stage director Laura Alley kept things moving on the simple set designed by Roger Hanna--the columns and arches with a couple of ramps worked well without cluttering the stage. The lighting by Brian Barnett effectively demonstrated how the entire opera takes place over the course of one day. The costumes by Helen E. Rodgers were gorgeous and true to time and place, as were the wigs by Amanda Miller.
We must admit we are hardly ever satisfied with the opening scene but that is how da Ponte wrote it. We always wonder if a woman fighting off a rapist would then chase him and try to prevent his escape. In the Alley version, she chases him into the courtyard and then he tries to rape her. Interesting. Let it be said that we were pleased that the final scene was included; last week's production at Juilliard had omitted it and ended with Don G being dragged off to hell and it had seemed too abrupt. Besides, we love that final sextet!
(c) meche kroop