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Castleton Festival's 'Don Giovanni'

Saturday evening’s Castleton Festival production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni had much to offer. Set designer Collette Pollard created depth and breadth within the Festival Theater’s chamber-like dimensions by creating vertical rectangular shapes from dark-hued wooden beams to produce different levels onstage. Piers on both sides of the orchestra pit brought the marble-like stage further into the room, which convincingly allowed singers to have independent spaces onstage. For example, Don Giovanni (baritone Javier Arrey) would be center stage busy using his powers of seduction, while his servant Leporello (bass-baritone Tyler Simpson) would offer comic quips stationed on one of the piers close to the audience (stage direction by Diandomenico Vaccari).

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Robert Battey, In ‘Don Giovanni’ at the Castleton Festival, one key player is missing (Washington Post, July 7)
Arrey’s ability to change expressive character within a phrase or single note was most memorable. Tyler Simpson’s deeply resonant singing as Leporello, and as Donna Elvira, soprano Jennifer Black's command over her entire range with particularly effective low notes of jealousy were the highlight of the casting. Audience favorite Ottavio (tenor Tyler Nelson) had a smooth, creamy tone that made up for his less than memorable stage presence and vocal intensity. The chorus, with ladies in flowery summer dresses and gents in slacks and collared shirts, added pleasing support for the dance and party scenes.

Conductor Salvatore Percacciolo, standing in for Castleton founder Lorin Maazel, who has been suffering from exhaustion and is thankfully on the mend, was not fully connected to his orchestra, which led to accuracy issues. Instead of being a conduit between stage and pit, Percacciolo oddly mouthed most of the text of the opera to the singers and let many orchestral details fall to the wayside. In fairness, Act II of the production seemed better rehearsed and executed, though had Maazel been at the podium, the orchestra players would have been at their best for the entire opera instead of being seemingly bored. Kudos to the harpsichord player, whose name was unlisted, for ravishing playing during the fluent recitativos.

This production repeats on July 12 and 18.

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