|Ken Young, Jeduthun Chung Gu Kim, Mengtao Zhou, Maestro Giovanni Longo, Claudio Mascarenhas, Iris Prcic, Valentine Baron, and Geeseop Kim
New York Lyric Opera Theatre has thrived under the leadership of General/Artistic Director Elizabeth Heuermann. Not only is there a constant stream of recitals but also a summer music program, vocal competitions, and student outreach. Who in the opera world has not been reached by these many activities!
Last night at the National Opera Center, there were two consecutive performances of a judiciously cut version of Mozart's masterpiece Don Giovanni, giving two casts (with some overlap) the opportunity to try out their roles in front of a live audience, and giving a new audience the opportunity to hear the highlights of the score in less than 90 mins. In place of a live orchestra, we had the marvelous Giovanni Longo at the piano, playing the exciting score with appropriate vivacity.
A concert version of an opera does not give the singer an opportunity to emote and the much deplored use of music stands deprives the singer of the chance to connect with the audience. Furthermore, we believe that if such a performance is geared toward new initiates to opera, titles would have been of value. We personally know the opera well and could tell what was going on without the drama. Newcomers would not have understood.
Voices on the whole were quite good, given the limitations. We are very hard on tenors who push their voices and sound tight. No such complaint about Jed Chung Gu Kim who took the role of Don Ottavio. His sweet sound was just right for the part and he sang with lovely legato and ease of sound production. His "Il mio tesoro" was lovely and someday we would like to hear his "Dalla sua pace". Alone among the cast, he seemed to try to connect with his beloved Donna Anna.
In that role, soprano Mengtauo Zhou exhibited an attractive tone and a facility with the coloratura. We believe that, freed of the music stand, she may develop more variety of color that would make the performance even better. She was quite lovely in "Non mi dir". She and Mr. Kim did beautifully in their Act I duet.
The eponymous Don Giovanni was portrayed by bass baritone Claudio Mascarenhas as an arrogant heel. No charm for this seducer! His powerful sound and stage presence lent veracity to the part. He created a sense of menace throughout.
As his servant Leporello, Geeseop Kim exhibited a less robust type of bass baritone. His Act II aria gave him some stage time, with his best sound at the upper end of the register. We bet that the audience longed to hear his Catalogue Aria.
As the vengeful Donna Elvira, we heard Iris Prcic, who calls herself a "zwichenfach soprano mezzo". To our ears, she sounded like a solid dramatic soprano with her best notes in the upper register. There is a steely core to her tone that made her just right for the role. The difficult "Mi tradito" with its wide skips was well handled.
The role of the flirtatious Zerlina was sung by Valentine Baron whose light soprano was just right for the role. Her "Batti, batti" was lovely and demonstrated flexibility.
Unfortunately, bass Ken Young has a mature sound that didn't fit the role of Masetto. However he was just right for the Commendatore, lending gravitas and horror to the role. The final scene in which he drags Don G. to hell was quite chilling. In the opening scene in which he is murdered by Don G. both men sounded great together.
As a matter of fact, all the ensembles were superb, earning credit for the balance of voices. The harmonies written by Mozart are always "music to our ears".
(c) meche kroop