BWW Review: DON GIOVANNI at Virginia Opera
Mozart's Don Giovanni is a must see in every opera goer's repertoire. If you are looking for a first encounter with the Don, you could be in no more responsible hands than the Virginia Opera. The material and musical mastery are deliciously indulgent in equal measure. Director Lillian Groag's rendition is a vibrant and youthful take on the infamous playboy invigorated by lively performances. The work may be named for the relentless philanderer, but the ensemble offers a rich bounty of characters.
Tobias Greenhalgh channels the carefree womanizer with a remarkable confidence. His bright baritone effortlessly glides over the challenging and wide-ranging material. Greenhalgh's vocal agility and command of the role reaches a peak in the drug-fueled party scene that stuns and delights. He challenges the orchestra, led by Adam Turner, in an athletic staccato passage that triumphs emphatically. His leadership feels infectious as every character, love or loathe, seems to enjoy sharing the stage with him. The thoughtless rogue actually earns a dose of sympathy when consequences finally catch him and Greenhalgh switches gears smoothly for the dramatic finale.
The notoriety of the classic tale goes to Giovanni, but the spotlight of this staging is stolen by Leporello's lament. Zachary Altman plays the nobleman's largely loveless assistant, but his bass-baritone is crush-worthy. His lower register rings throughout the hall and his pronunciation of the Italian is precise without exaggeration. Most memorable, though, is Altman's comedic contribution. While three-century old humor can come off as campy, Altman revitalizes the intent with a modern and relatable adaptation. Where Giovanni is limited to directing his flirtation to the women on stage, Leporello offers the audience all of his love.
Among the scorned lovers, Sarah Larsen rises as a standout in the role of Donna Elvira. Her powerful mezzo-soprano is lush and authoritative. She glides smoothly between lovesick and cynic without sacrificing tonal quality. Heroic and heartbreaking, she possesses a presence that grounds the action when chaos otherwise reigns.
Artistic Director Adam Turner matched an impeccable pair in Rachelle Louise Durkin (Donna Anna) and Stephen Carroll (Don Ottavio). Durkin's soprano soars with a lusciously subtle yet devious bite. Carroll is the perfect balance as her long-suffering lover. His tenor is grounded and earnest and together they deliver the most satisfying duets of the opera.
Mezzo-soprano Melisa Bonetti (Zerlina) and baritone Evan Bravos (Masetto) are an equally well-matched duo. The adorable pair is endearing, and their vocal performance suffers nothing for the physical demand of their roles. They are by far the most active and yet maintain outstanding control. Bonetti's upper register at times challenges her diction but is more than compensated in style and beauty. Bravos answers with nimble precision and notable range. If the future of opera sounds like Bravos, the art boasts a bright future indeed.
Expertly cast as The Commendatore, Nathan Stark rounds out the lead cast with authority. His booming bass-baritone offers gravitas to an otherwise largely frivolous and jovial affair. Stark cuts through the revelry offering something unique punctuating the most dramatic moments of the show.
Mozart's contribution to opera cannot be understated, but even a masterpiece cannot survive for centuries without a proper guardian. The Virginia Opera is the responsible curator that his orchestration deserves.
Tickets are now available for Don Giovanni at the Virginia Opera running through November 18.
Photo Credit: Ben Schill Photography