Arts & Culture

NC Opera’s ‘Don Giovanni’ sets new standard

Don Giovanni played by Jeongcheol Cha, right, charms Zerlina played by Jennifer Cherest in North Carolina Opera’s production of “Don Giovanni.”
Don Giovanni played by Jeongcheol Cha, right, charms Zerlina played by Jennifer Cherest in North Carolina Opera’s production of “Don Giovanni.”

Opera is such a challenge to produce that it’s rare to find talented, well-cast singers, a knowledgeable, supportive conductor and an intelligent, understanding stage director present in the same staging. N.C. Opera’s “Don Giovanni” has them all, creating an engaging, extremely satisfying performance that sets yet another standard for the 5-year-old company.

Productions of Mozart’s serious comedy about the heartless womanizer, Don Juan, can often be cold, ponderous and humorless. The approach here is warm, vibrant and genuinely funny.

Crystal Manich’s perceptive direction reconfirms the human comedy in the vanities and desires of pursuers and the pursued. She instills the singers with the delicate balance between heartfelt sentiment and ironic self-awareness. Manich also cleverly matches characters’ movements and expressions to the music’s rhythms and emphases.

Conductor Timothy Myers makes it easy for such moments, his masterful, utterly confident control revealing Mozart’s deep insights into human nature. At Saturday’s opening, Myers was on fire from the first phrases of the overture, propelling the score along with unflagging energy and effervescence. His double duty as harpsichordist for the recitatives was impressive and amusing, his baton between his teeth for the quick change to the keyboard.

The cast is gratifyingly uniform in acting and singing. Jeongcheol Cha’s Don is a suave conqueror, his smoothly produced bass-baritone menacing or seductive as needed. As his loyal servant Leporello, bass Adam Lau combines a vividly sonorous voice with an astute comic sensibility, making him an audience favorite.

Alexandra Loutsion’s powerful soprano fills the auditorium with Donna Anna’s revengeful anger at Don Giovanni’s attempted seduction and his murder of her father. As Donna Elvira, abandoned by Don Giovanni, Hailey Clark’s bright, silvery soprano expresses hurt, jealousy and vexation equally well.

Jennifer Cherest’s perky soprano is perfect for flirtatious Zerlina, the peasant girl about to marry hotheaded Masetto, ably characterized by David Weigel. David Blalock breathes life into the often-inert Don Ottavio, Donna Anna’s fiancé, and Benjamin LeClair is suitably ominous as the Commendatore, ghost of Donna Anna’s father.

Loaned scenery (Virginia Opera) and costumes (Michigan Opera Theatre) are effective, especially as lit by Tláloc López-Watermann’s dramatic shadowing.

Saturday’s audience remained keenly engaged, laughing knowingly throughout. Fans and first-timers alike are encouraged to catch this most rewarding production.

Dicks: music_theater@lycos.com

Details

What: Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” presented by N.C. Opera

Where: Fletcher Opera Theater, Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh

When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday; 8 p.m. Friday; 3 p.m. Sunday

Tickets: $25-$89

Info: 919-792-3853 or ncopera.org

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