A LEGENDARY love-them-and-leave them cad, Don Giovanni is the type of man mothers tell their little girls to stay away from. This year's Lowell House Opera production of Don Giovanni reveals the timelessness of Mozart's brilliant score and the company's core of strong and energetic voices. The singers prove themselves equally good actors, making it easy for the audience to follow the intricate machinations of the plot, which centers around the escapades of the despicable yet charming Don Giovanni.
No one likes Don Giovanni, not even his dedicated servant Leporella. And the entire opera involves a number of characters who have an axe to grind with the infamous seducer, who nonchalantly displays his talents while the others hatch their plans. But in the end Don Giovanni meets his deserving demise, not from the living characters, but from the ghost of a man whom the protagonist killed in a fit of rage at the beginning of the story. It is not easy to play a character whom everyone hates and whose mysterious--subtly sexual--personality attracts women regardless of their social background and despite how much they would like to despise him. Mitchell C. Warren's Don Giovanni lacks the spark of charisma to ignite the entire production. His voice, though handsome, is not strong enough to stir our fear or our hatred and is frequently drowned out by the orchestra.
WARREN'S WEAKNESS, HOWEVER, does not hamper the rest of the performers, who, with their loud resounding voices and melodramatic characterizations convey Don Giovanni's licentiousness. Their hatred, and not Giovanni himself, provides the momentum for the three-hour production. As Donna Anna, whose father Giovanni killed after failing to seduce the daughter, Anita Ashur conveys brilliantly her character's maniacal desire for revenge through her vibrantly loud voice. Ashur's clearly enunciated voice has a spectacular range, and even during songs with the ensemble, her voice stands out.
The two other female singers give superb performances. As Donna Elvira--one of Giovanni's past conquests--Margery Hellmold '83 captures woman's confused love-hate feelings toward Giovanni with her emotional outbursts through her buoyant arias and desperate recitative interplay with the seducer himself. Junior Jeanine Bowman's Zerlina complements the other two women with her performance as an innocent country maiden, who almost falls into Giovanni's web Less emotional and more straightforward than Anna or Elvira. bowman's Zerlina is delightful with her quieter yet charming voice that reveals her character's naivete and dedication to her country bumpkin of a finance.
Sophomore Jeffrey Korn is lively and hysterically funny as Zerlina's rather slow-witted betrothed, Masetto Along with junior Dominic A. A. Randolph, who plays Giovanni's faithful yet knowing servant Leporella. Korn provides the comic relief for the melodramatic intricacy of the opera. Randolph's Leporella never fails to entertain the audience, whether he is describing his master's terrible ways or whether he is cavorting about the stage, helping his master escape from the other characters. Randolph's stage presence is superb and he becomes the show's most endearing character, as he provides most of the opera's "narration" and glides smoothly all over the stage with his boisterous baritone.
WHETHER THEY ARE SINGING arias, ensembles, or recitatives along with the harpsichord, the cast does an admirable job with the material. The orchestra also does a fine job, under the direction of senior Stuart Malina. Although the violins at times seem off-key, the orchestra complements the singers well, maintaining a strong enough level without overpowering them.
While Lowell House's Dining Hall is not the atmosphere most conductive to an operatic production, the modest set with few props and simple staging enables the cast to move around easily, focusing our attention on their voices and gestures, rather than unnecessary production, as the cast deftly conveys the simple themes of good versus evil and heaven versus hell of the libretto, complemented by Mozart's score. The simple costumes, which can't be pinned down to any one era, and the sparsely furnished set suggests tone rather than time, giving the singers the opportunity to display their superb voices and at the same time revealing the agelessness of Mozart's music.