Beginning the season with Ravel’s two rare operas, the Boston Conservatory featured perhaps the world’s most famous opera as its second opera of the season: Mozart’s Don Giovanni; it was no surprise that this audience favorite was a sold out show.
With sets and costumes in a generally traditional style, Johnathon Pape’s production also contained a modern flair. In the opening scene of the opera Donna Anna enters in a skirt fitting of the period, but a leather corset while Don Giovanni sports the typical garb with a modern studded belt. Later in the opera, Donna Elvira and Donna Anna wear period dresses of silky material, denoting nobility, while Zerlina’s simple frock denotes her innocence and naivety.
Elvira’s flashy jewels and stylish manner gave her the air of a proud and cunning woman, not the pathetic, gullible Elvira so often portrayed. Erin Hannon brought an air of poise and dignity to the role. Her strong, throaty voice gave her a commanding presence and, as a character, she was almost as tenacious as Don Giovanni, himself. Perhaps the most memorable aria of the night was Hannon’s “Mi tradi quell’alma ingrata.” Not only did Hannon sing it with outstanding charisma and inflection, but it was a break in Elvira’s feisty façade that gave the character depth.
Conversely Katy Kelly sang a fairly gentle Donna Anna. Intonation was no problem for Kelly, but her smooth voice, especially in the recitative before “Or sai chi l’honore,” did not elevate Donna Anna’s vocal lines to their full dramatic potential; despite this, Kelly really came through in her final aria “Non mi dir.” She opened with a warm legato and then stepped the cabaletta up to a snappy speed, blasting the audience with her flawless coloratura.
Kelly’s counterpart, Salvatore Atti in the role of Don Ottavio, played his role engagingly (which is quite a rare feat). The role of Don Ottavio is often used simply as a vocal showcase for tenors with little to no insight put into the character. Atti did quite the opposite; where he was occasionally lacking in vocal technique he more than made up for in his exquisite characterization of Ottavio. His heartfelt arias and attentive manner show him as a truly devoted and sympathetic character.
Evan Ross was delightful in the slapstick role of Leporello. His voice was pleasant in tone, but the wideness of his vibrato tended to obscure the pitch and made some passages cumbersome. His stage presence was undeniably magnetic, though, and his chemistry with the cast, namely Don Giovanni, was natural.
Isaac Bray played a lighthearted Don Giovanni, a pleasure-seeker more mischievous than sinister. Like Ross, he showed great comfort on the stage and with his colleagues. Bray’s warm, crooning voice worked to great avail for his roguishly charming characterization, but fell a little flat in dramatic drive in his final confrontation with the Commendatore played by Wesley Gentle. Vocally Gentle carried the drama of the scene, but did not present a very intimidating figure.
The lovers Zerlina and Masetto, sung by Katelyn Parker and Antoni Scarano, were portrayed in a very traditional way. Parker’s “Vedrai Carino” was touchingly innocent. With no sexual inuendos or sassy come-ons so characteristic of Zerlina’s of recent productions of Don Giovanni, Parker, with her clear, sweet voice, redeems Zerlina from her increasingly loose characterizations.
Other than a few slips in lyrics and the occasional glaring lapse in tasteful Italian diction, the singers seemed well rehearsed and fully engaged in their characterizations. Lead by Andrew Altenbach the orchestra was functional and dynamic, but the tempo often lacked crispness. The brass section in particular seemed to have a reoccurring problem, as half of their entrances were blatantly out of tune due to cracking notes.
The Boston Conservatory’s production of Don Giovanni runs through April 1st. This particular cast can be heard again on Saturday, March 31st at 8 p.m. An alternate cast will be featured tonight, March 30th at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday, April 1st at 2:00 p.m.