We are here to encourage the development of gifted young singers and to stimulate the growth of New York City's invaluable chamber opera companies. But we will not neglect the Metropolitan Opera either. Get ready for bouquets and brickbats.

Friday, June 15, 2018


Charles Gray, Javier Ortiz, Jennifer Allenby, David Serero, Anna Cley, and Pablo Veguilla

We wish we'd been able to review David Serero's Don Giovanni earlier in the run; we'd have advised you to bring all of your opera newbie friends to this 80 minute abbreviated version of our favorite Mozart opera. There were laughs aplenty provided by Mr. Serero's adaptation with recitativi eliminated in favor of English dialogue, replete with jokes.

As a matter of fact, although the music was all Mozart and nothing but Mozart, Lorenzo Da Ponte's libretto received short shrift, which was curious in light of the fact that Mr. Serero's operatic productions favor stories about the Jewish people or which were written by Jewish people. (We don't, however, expect to see Verdi's Nabucco on the modest stage of the Center for Jewish History--not even with the "Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves".) So, the Jewish connection  was based upon the libretto of the Jewish Da Ponte. To honor him, Mr. Serero moved the setting from Seville to Venice, Da Ponte's birthplace. However, he also changed the story a bit.

Mr. Serero is quite a showman and the moment he stepped onstage we immediately thought of POTUS.  Therefore we were not surprised when he did outright imitations of our Liar/seducer in Chief; and they were very good imitations at that, providing lots of laughs for the audience. (There were other references to popular culture as well, but most went over our high-browed head--something about Lady Gaga and Starwars.)

In any case, he threw himself into the part, portraying Don Giovanni as a smarmy cad. He surrounded himself with some excellent singers, ensuring that the brief evening of the major arias, connected by English dialogue, was of musical value to those of us who are not newbies. Sometimes, we girls just want to have fun!

Charles Gray made a very funny Leporello, Don Giovanni's servant and side-kick, bearing an iPad on which he swiped, in order to show Donna Elvira all of his master's conquests in the "Catalogue Aria".  Mr. Gray not only sang well but put all kinds of physical comedy into his portrayal.

The women singers were all excellent.  We heard the strong voiced Anna Cley as the very angry Donna Elvira and Jennifer Allenby as Donna Anna, and a very fine Donna Anna she was. In the role of Zerlina, Yi Wang portrayed her as more innocent than most, making Mr. Serero's vile seducer seem even more vile. He said he was "reeling her in like a fish", which he mimed. 

Her sposo Masetto was portrayed by Javier Ortiz who did double duty as the Commendatore.  There was a funny bit when he was slain and lying on the stage until the next scene and was told by Mr. Serero to get up and get out because his scene was over, and Mr. Ortiz replied that he had fallen asleep.

And finally, Pablo Veguilla took the role of Don Ottavio and did a fine job with "Il mio tesoro". We particularly enjoyed the trio of Donna Anna, Donna Elvira, and Don Ottavio.

The piano reduction was perfectly performed by composer/pianist Felix Jarrar, right from the overture until the end when Mr. Serero jumped offstage into the waiting fires of hell whilst Disney's "That's All Folks" was projected on the rear wall. A good time was had by all.

(c) meche kroop

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