Kate Lindsey (Zerlina), Corey McKern (Masetto), Elza van den Heever (Donna Anna), Susanna Phillips (Donna Elvira), Charles
Workman (Don Ottavio), and Lucas Meachem (Don Giovanni) in Don Giovanni, Santa Fe Opera, 2009 (photo by Ken Howard)
In the competition for most produced composer in the history of Santa Fe Opera, Mozart just edges out Richard Strauss. Over five years of covering Santa Fe Opera there has not been a season without Mozart -- Figaro in 2008, Così in 2007, Magic Flute in 2006, and an absolutely show-stopping Lucio Silla in 2005. This takes us back in the cycle to Don Giovanni, the 2004 production of which was revived this year, in what turned out to be the least interesting of the five operas at Santa Fe, at least as heard on Saturday night. The staging by Chas Rader-Shieber, who directed the multichromatic Tamerlano last season at Washington National Opera, sets the Don as a sort of pistol-wielding outlaw, costumed like Black Bart in a bordello-vermilion Old West. It was, by report, fairly striking with Mariusz Kwiecień in the title role in 2004, but this year's cast of former apprentices and other young singers afforded few vocal revelations. In fact, many of the singers, some of whom have impressed in other roles, seemed miscast.
Lucas Meachem (Don Giovanni) and Elza van den Heever (Donna Anna) in Don Giovanni, Santa Fe Opera, 2009 (photo by Ken Howard)
Matthew Rose, who reportedly had a memorable turn as Bottom in the Glyndebourne Midsummer Night's Dream a few years ago, was vocally solid as Leporello and skewered the role with deadly accurate comic timing. He added a vitriolic side to the character, too, underscoring the real meaning of his revolutionary but sometimes tossed off opening lines, "Voglio far il gentiluomo, e non voglio più servir." Charles Workman's Don Ottavio, who appeared somewhat clerical in severe black with a rosary around his neck, was broad and blunt of tone, if a little shouty. It was strange that the production would include both Dalla sua pace and Il mio tesoro for a singer that did not have more subtlety (the Zerlina-Leporello was, as usual, cut). Corey McKern's Masetto was rounded and meek, while Harold Wilson was unable to muster much menace with his voice or presence as the Commendatore, even getting a laugh when a double popped up in an unexpected place during the Stone Guest banquet scene. Of all the reactions one might want to provoke during that particular hair-raising scene, laughter is not one of them.
Craig Smith, Consummate ensemble enlivens Santa Fe Opera's 'Don Giovanni' revival (Santa Fe New Mexican, July 19)
D. S. Crafts, Review: Don Giovanni (Albuquerque Journal, July 20)
John Stege, Blustering and Blasting (Santa Fe Reporter, July 22)
Conductor Lawrence Renes, who has clearly studied that René Jacobs recording, kept things interesting by pushing many of the tempi brutally forward, especially in the blur of a Stone Guest banquet scene, with his edgy, frenetic gestures. The singers, who were apparently rehearsed at the faster tempi, often rushed ahead of the orchestra, which often seemed to get caught out by the unexpected tempo choices. Miraculously, the ball scene at the end of Act I, with its three different dance tunes ultimately in three different meters played by three "orchestras" marked in the score, came off well, although it helped that the "orchestras," though separated from one another, were all kept in the pit instead of on stage. Other high points included the sparse but effective accompaniment of the recitatives on a fortepiano (performer uncredited), and Giuseppina Ciarla's fine performance of the mandolin part of Deh vieni alla finestra on an honest-to-God mandolin. Did the director not give a thought to having her play the mandolin part on the stage with Don Giovanni?
Four performances of Don Giovanni remain at Santa Fe Opera, on August 13, 21, 24, and 27.