Tragedy, comedy, melodrama, farce. Every production of Mozart's glorious "Don Giovanni" deals with these elements when it presents the last day in the life of the notorious rake who lives only to seduce women. Those elements are imbedded in Lorenzo Da Ponte's libretto and in Mozart's music, and they're highlighted in John Pascoe's stunning production of "Don Giovanni" at the Washington National Opera.
But Pascoe also emphasizes a subtler dimension: the context of Giovanni's life, using Mozart's music to deepen the central narrative.
Ildar Abdrazakov is impressive as Giovanni, his imposing voice both commanding and capable of great gentleness, as in his serenade to Elvira's maid. Giovanni must charm his audiences as well as his "victims" and Abdrazakov's Giovanni is as charming as he is despicable.
Beyond Giovanni, the three most important characters are: Donna Anna (Meagan Miller), a woman Giovanni tries unsuccessfully to rape at the beginning of the opera; Donna Elvira (Barbara Frittoli), a woman wishing to avenge herself on the man who seduced her; and Zerlina (Veronica Cangemi), a young woman about to be married.
|Where: The Kennedy Center, 2700 F St. NW|
|When: Through Oct. 13|
|Info: Tickets start at $25; 202-467-4600; kennedy-center.org|
|Note: Paulo Szot plays Don Giovanni on Oct. 9|
Anna represents the strongest alternative to Giovanni's way of life and Miller's sparkling coloratura beautifully illustrates Anna's passion and intensity.
Frittoli is equally passionate as the distraught Elvira, a woman who continually offers Giovanni love and forgiveness in spite of his betrayal. Giovanni's refusal to accept her offer is an important measure of his character. Frittoli smoothly balances a musical display of anger and love.
Cangemi's strong lyric soprano is perfect for the young woman whom Giovanni almost wins over. Anna's fiance, Don Ottavio, is masterfully portrayed by Juan Francisco Gatell, who offers the polar opposite to Giovanni's world view in his lyrical "Il mio tesoro."
The majority of the opera's humor comes from Giovanni's manservant, Leporello, delightfully portrayed by the skilled bass-baritone Andrew Foster-Williams. The Commendatore is played with authority by Soloman Howard.
The success of this production is largely due to Donald Edmund Thomas' lighting design. Thomas begins the opera with Giovanni's "girlfriends-past" materializing around the Don like wraiths, through tricks of light.
It's a truism that "Don Giovanni" has no single meaning. By bringing out the richness of the score, beautifully performed by the WNO. Orchestra under Phillipe Auguin's direction, this production emphasizes how all Mozart's characters exist and breathe, how brilliantly their creator caught their moods and motivations.