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Mozart’s Don Giovanni shines

Don Giovanni
May 2, 6, 9, 10
7:30 p.m.
May 4, 3 p.m.
$18 General, $15 Faculty/Staff/Sr.
$10 Student/Youth, $7 PSU Students
Lincoln Hall Auditorium

The School of Fine and Performing Arts in alliance with the PSU’s Music

Department presents Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni, which began May 6 and continues in the Lincoln Hall Auditorium through May 10.

Despite the fact this opera is only a two act performance, don’t let the 7:30p.m. start time deceive you. With an intermission around 9 p.m., it’s possible to be at home in bed by midnight if you live close.

The story of Don Giovanni is one of sorrow, arrogance, pity, mistaken identities and finally, justice.

The “hero” of this opera is the title character, Don Giovanni, as played by Erik Hundtoft. Though he behaves like a villain and comes to a thoroughly deserved sticky end, Don Giovanni is still presented in such a way you can’t help but feel a certain admiration for him.

A lot of this is indubitably due to the fact that he gets to sing some absolutely beautiful music. Hundtoft has the precision of range required for this part and does a fine job portraying the character as “an extremely licentious young nobleman.”

His side-kick and long-suffering servant, Leporello, played by Stacy Murdock (May 6, 10) and Nathaniel Loomis (May 4, 9) seems to take the rap when Don Giovanni’s schemes go awry. Leporello is a more obviously humorous character, and gets to make a number of witty asides. He also sings an impressive aria in which he tells Donna Elvira all about the book he keeps listing all of Don Giovanni’s conquests. Murdock portrayed Leporello with grace and style as he enlightens Donna Elvira of Don Giovanni’s preoccupations.

Donna Elvira , played by Laura Wakeman (May 2, 6, 10) and Christy Anne Hamilton (May 4, 9) is the jilted victim of Don Giovanni’s charm. Donna Elvira appears partway through the first act, wailing that she has been abandoned by her lover. Though also told all about his philandering ways by Leporello, Donna Elvira never quite seems convinced that Don Giovanni might not be redeemable. Wakeman’s vocal volume was rather hushed initially, but found its home as the production continued. Her persuasive song to Zerlina, explaining the truth behind Don Giovanni was particularly engaging.

Zerlina, a village girl, played by Anne Reed (May 2, 6, 10) and Natalie Gunn (May 4, 10) recently married to Masetto is spied by Don Giovanni and another of his conquests has begun. Reed portrayed the innocence and charm of Zerlina. After realizing that Don Giovanni was only looking for fun, she returns to her husband and pleads forgiveness. Reed’s vocal strength and intention conveyed the character beautifully.

Erin Anderson as Donna Anna and Eric Stinson as Don Ottavio provided noteworthy performances. Anderson’s beautiful voice captured my attention. Both Stinson’s voice and Anderson’s voice found their place within the orchestra and blended beautifully.

The finale of the opera is absolutely amazing. Don Giovanni finally gets his comeuppance, when a stone statue comes to life and drags Don Giovanni off to hell. Actually, the statue first gives Don Giovanni a chance to repent and mend his ways, but characteristically he refuses. The drama of the music here is quite outstanding. The menace of the statue and the accompanying threat of Hell is brilliantly conveyed. The orchestra, directed by Keith Clark, performed very well. Initially, I couldn’t tell whether the vocalists were singing too softly or the orchestra was playing too loudly, but within the first 30 minutes, the perfect balance was found.

The costumes, provided by the Utah Opera and the Portland Opera, were ornate and vibrant. Every character was dressed superbly, be it a nightshirt (as Donna Anna was in her first scene) or in masquerade costumes (as were Donna Elvira, Donna Anna and Don Ottavio) toward the end of the first act. The English supertext, however, was very slow in its timing of the lines and proved to be my only criticism of the operatic presentation.

This wonderful production of Don Giovanni incorporates the skill and talents of the PSU philharmonic, the PSU chamber orchestra, and the PSU chamber winds. Ruth Dobson is the artistic director, Brenda Nuckton, stage director and Carey Wong set design.

Presented in the version of the first performance in Prague on October 29, 1787, this performance of Don Giovanni captures the tale of the scalawag who romanced and the justice that prevailed.