'Don Giovanni' opera uneven, but filled with energy
Opera in Duluth for summer 2010 officially got under way Wednesday night. A group of mostly graduate-level college students from all over the map brought "Don Giovanni" -- W.A. Mozart's moralistic comic opera -- to the Marshall Performing Arts Ce...
Opera in Duluth for summer 2010 officially got under way Wednesday night. A group of mostly graduate-level college students from all over the map brought "Don Giovanni" -- W.A. Mozart's moralistic comic opera -- to the Marshall Performing Arts Center on the UMD campus.
While the opera frequently was uneven in the level of singing and acting, it had energy and stamina. Additionally, for the five weeks of this first Sieur Du Luth Opera Training Program, a lot of young performers get a heavy dose of hands-on experience in the challenging world of opera. This bodes well for opera lovers of the next several decades.
Regina Zona, UMD opera faculty member, is the driving force for both the training program and director of this production of "Don Giovanni." The cast sang in the Italian of the original but were cast as disgruntled Hollywood actors of the 1950s. The costumes and sets were straightforward, and moving them on and off the stage became part of the acting. Masetto, an innocent young man sung by Jeffrey Luksik, even erected a "brick wall" so he could hide behind it.
At the beginning of the story, Don Giovanni (William Lucas) mortally wounds the father of one of his sexual victims, Donna Anna (Christine Teeters), and for the rest of the opera, she and her betrothed Don Ottavio (Jonathan Brinson) plot revenge until Giovanni is dragged off to the pits of hell by the spirit of the dead father (Jahi Mims).
But this is still comic opera with a lot of ensemble singing throughout the three-hour performance.
Wednesday night's cast will return tonight, but the Saturday cast will be quite different. For opening, Teeters was by far the strongest singer, but Leporello (Jerome Sibulo) kept stealing the show with his animated acting, facial gestures and steady patter of humor. Lucas was up to the stamina of Giovanni and struggles fiercely at the end as he refuses to repent, even in the face of eternal damnation.
The lovely Donna Elvira (Melissa McCaughey) and the rustic Zerlina (Alba Cancel) rounded out the Wednesday night cast. Cancel and Luksik were wonderfully cast as the only married couple on stage, and shared a delightfully seductive duet after he was beaten up by Giovanni. Another nice effect is the portrait of Anna's murdered father hanging on the chimney, coming to life through lighting, with Mims singing through the portrait to condemn Giovanni.
Maestro Gaetano Colajanni is on the podium again this summer, and his modest orchestra of professional and student musicians offered cohesion to the whole production. The dancing was enticing and had been well-rehearsed.
While most of the first act involved setting up the trap for Giovanni, the second act picked up the pace and kept it moving to the very end. Appropriately, Leporello gets the last laugh and winks as he heads off in search of a new master. Giovanni gets to pay for his morals two more nights, and more opera is yet to come in this glorious summer of Sieur Du Luth.
Samuel Black is a Duluth pianist, director of music programs at Duluth Congregational Church, and opera lover who gets to write about it for the News Tribune.