Gregory G. H. Rihn (milwaukeesfs) wrote,
Gregory G. H. Rihn

Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, “Don Giovanni”

On Sunday, September 14th, we went to hear the Milwaukee Symphony’s performance of Mozart’s opera, “Don Giovanni”. This was a ‘semi-staged’ production, meaning that there was movement and acting on stage as opposed to just standing and singing, and there was a minimal set for the singers to play off of.
Music director Edo de Waart has serious opera conducting credentials, having been called in by the Metropolitan Opera to substitute for James Levine, and he demonstrated his ability with the orchestra in no uncertain terms. The orchestra handled Mozart’s score beautifully, and with perfect dynamic support for the singers.
The opera was as well sung as any “Don Giovanni” we had heard, and well-acted in addition. Daniel Okulitch, as Giovanni, and Matthew Rose, as Leporello, were the tallest men in the cast, and reminded me of Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry as “Jeeves and Wooster,” but gone horribly to the bad. Both men sang with power and precision, and acted their parts with great physical expression. In particular, Okulich’s portrayal of reckless insouciance despite the vengeance pursuing him, made it clear that Don Giovanni is, in fact, a madman, continuing his obsessive behavior to the point of his own destruction.
Tamara Wilson, as Donna Anna, had the most powerful voice in the cast, and put it to good use, singing out her outrage and grief at her near-rape by Don Giovanni, and the killing of her father.
Nicole Cabell, as Donna Elvira, sang beautifully, and also had the greatest range of acting, fiery in pursuit of vengeance when we first encounter her, but then yielding to her own obsession with Giovanni, pathetically begging him to take her back.
Paul Appleby was one of the best Don Ottavios we have heard. He sang with excellent power and decisiveness in both arias "Il mio tesoro", and "Dalla sua pace", which allowed him to avoid the stereotype of the “wimpy” Don Ottavio.
Andre Courville, as Mazetto, and Grazia Doronzio as Zerlina, were both very fine singers and acted well. The coincidence that they are both shorter than the other singers and could be “loomed over” by them, worked well in the performance—they were two “little people” who could be pushed around by the grandees even on their wedding day.
Veteran singer James Morris was a very solid and satisfying Commendatore. I always hope to have my scalp prickle at the statue’s entrance on "Don Giovanni! A cenar teco m'invitasti" and was not disappointed this time.
The minimal set by James Darrah worked well, and could adequately suggest street scenes or Don Giovanni’s house without being distracting or annoying. Darrah’s stage directing was excellent and gave the production good life and expression.
We were pleased with this production overall, and enjoyed it very much.

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