Over the weekend I was at opening night of SF Opera's new production of Don Giovanni. Conductor Nicola Luisotti began the overture forcefully, as if conducting a Beethoven symphony. The performance went at a brisk, non-stop pace, at the sacrifice of some precision. Maestro Luisotti accompanied some of the recitatives on the fortepiano & interpolated the heavenly opening of Mozart's A major piano concerto before the graveyard scene. I was totally disappointed that the final sextet has been cut from these performances, though.
The cast is youthful & lively. Bass Marco Vinco as Leporello has a dark, weighty sound & acted with a comic looseness. I did not get the drift of Lucas Meachem's Don Giovanni, who looked detached in his black circular sunglasses & seemed remorseful as he lay over the body of the dying Commendatore. I like Mr. Meachem's smooth, suave voice, & his serenade "Deh vieni alla finestra" was pretty. He sang it directly to the audience while the house lights went up.
Bass Morris Robinson has a deep, solid voice & was a terrifying Commendatore. His vivid singing made me think I understood Italian perfectly. He was also impressively immobile in the graveyard scene. Mezzo Kate Lindsey was a bright-voiced, intelligent & funny Zerlina. She made a startling entrance doing a cartwheel. Bass-baritone Ryan Kuster as her Masetto has a deep, virile voice & was not completely oafish. Tenor Shawn Mathey was a last-minute cast replacement & seemed nervous, though his voice sounded fine, & he made it through his 2 arias ably. Ellie Dehn as Donna Anna & Serena Farnocchia as Donna Elvira were both strong, hearty singers.
The stage was a vast empty space, with minimal sense of setting, besides a bunch of 18th century chairs. Much of the time the singers were directly under the proscenium. Tall mirrors suspended from the flys moved up & down with an eerie silence to indicate scene changes but otherwise did not contribute to the action. The Don & Donna Anna appear as lovers in the 1st scene, which makes Donna Anna into a nasty liar in her subsequent scenes with Don Ottavio. The masqueraders wore ridiculously over-sized wigs that could have come from Beach Blanket Babylon. The end of act 1, with the chorus as a group chasing the Don & Leporello, looked like a Benny Hill sketch.
As when I attended Lucrezia, I started out in standing room but then received excellent orchestra seats from a patron leaving after act 1. However, my opera companion was clearly happier in standing room.
§ Don Giovanni
San Francisco Opera
Conductor: Nicola Luisotti
Director: Gabriele Lavia
Leporello: Marco Vinco
Donna Anna: Ellie Dehn
Don Giovanni: Lucas Meachem
The Commendatore: Morris Robinson
Don Ottavio: Topi Lehitpuu Shawn Mathey
Donna Elvira: Serena Farnocchia
Zerlina: Kate Lindsey
Masetto: Ryan Kuster
Sat 10/15/11 8:00pm
War Memorial Opera House
§ Production photo: Cory Weaver