Contrasts illuminate classic Mozart opera
It is impossible not to fall in love with him -- or with what he does. He charms everybody. He is witty, funny, romantic and a master at his trade. He never misses an opportunity to display his skills. And ultimately his myth will last forever. If you believe Don Giovanni corresponds to the description, think Mozart -- or better, how Mozart expressed his own nature, using the myth of Don Juan framed with extraordinarily brilliant music.
On stage: 7:30 p.m. today and Tuesday
Place: Blaisdell Concert Hall
Tickets: $29 to $120
Contact: Call 596-7858 or visit hawaiiopera.org
Friday's performance of the Italian opera "Don Giovanni" rendered justice to both Mozart and the myth of the Spanish libertine. Once again, HOT Director Henry Akina made it happen with a tasteful, clever production, accomplished cast and delightful musical interpretation under wonderful direction.
Shining in the first-class cast were bass Gustav Andreassen as Leporello and soprani Luz del Alba and Korliss Ueker as Donne Anna and Elvira. Bass baritone Daniel Okulitch in the title role, tenor George Dyer as Don Ottavio, basses Matt Boehler as Masetto and Brian Jauhiainen as the Commendatore, and our very own soprano Mary Chesnut Hicks as Zerlina also contributed to this high-quality performance.
FROM THE OVERTURE, one sensed that it would be an intelligent production. Foreshadowing the doomed heartbreaker's predicament, the orchestral introduction alternates dark and bright sections mixing energy and comedy, as Lesley Wright points out in her program notes. At the same time, we see Don Giovanni onstage having fun with all types of women, as described in Leporello's "Catalogo" aria.
Sometimes racy, sometimes plain funny, the hustle and bustle of the catalog ladies flirting with Don Giovanni is observed by two groups of spectators on balconies over the stage -- a witty Shakespearean idea, an 18th century audience watching the opera within the opera.
Ensembles and solo arias alternate in this feast of brilliant, touching and grave music. The first male trio -- Leporello, Don Giovanni and the Commendatore -- showcased the warm darkness of the singers' voices. Andreassen's top-notch talent shone throughout, with a powerful and clear voice, tremendous Italian diction and excellent acting.
In the aria "Or sai chi l'onore," Luz del Alba gave Donna Anna's sentiments after her father's death a luminous yet stern interpretation. And Okulitch carried out his role with faith in the character's self-confidence and immunity to criticism. His stage presence was excellent.
As Donna Elvira, Ueker beautifully performed the aria "Mi tradì quell'alma ingrata," expressing rage but also compassion for Don Giovanni. By contrasting ternary and rondo forms, Mozart reinforces Donna Elvira's return to the same position of love and dependency, a predicament reinforced in Ueker's interpretation.
In contrast to Donna Elvira's passion, Chesnut Hicks' Zerlina was delightful in the light and famous first-act duet "Là ci darem la mano," never overdoing the comedy while maintaining the brightness of her voice.
Savvy spectators may wonder how Don Giovanni will disappear from the stage in the last act. Friday night, with mechanical tricks worthy of the best supernatural magic, the miraculous Don did not disappoint.
Valeria Wenderoth teaches at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.