ATLANTAThe Atlanta Opera1/29/23
Brandon Cedel and Jennifer Johnson Cano in Atlanta Opera’s Don Giovanni
Raftermen for The Atlanta Opera
THE ATLANTA OPERA CONTINUED its 2022-23 season with a film noir-inspired production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni that gave the classic a controversial twist (seen Jan. 29). Originally conceived by set designer R. Keith Brumley and costume designer Mary Traylor for Lyric Opera of Kansas City, the production transformed Tirso de Molina’s seminal tale into a world of betrayal bathed in chiaroscuro lighting. In this alternate reality, Giovanni bears a striking resemblance to Humphrey Bogart with a touch of gangster, while his conquests Donna Anna and Donna Elvira are reminiscent of Hollywood femmes fatales Rita Hayworth and Ava Gardner. Seville is no longer Seville, but a world of shadows, tall, gray buildings, and back alleyways in which the cigarette-smoking Giovanni skulks, molesting and serenading as he goes.
Conductor Jan Latham-Koenig and stage director Kristine McIntyre led a nearly ideal cast, beginning with Brandon Cedel’s Giovanni, which was dashing—to say the least—as evidenced by the breadth of his vocalism and the physicality that permeated his interactions with every other character. Cedel amped up his singing little by little as the evening progressed, providing fluid recitative, a sotto voce rendition of “Deh vieni alla finestra,” eventually delivering brash, emboldened singing just before meeting his ultimate demise at the hand of Leporello, played by Milanese bass-baritone Giovanni Romeo.
Atlanta Opera’s trio of sopranos each offered an exceptional voice, deployed expertly. Jennifer Johnson Cano was an electric Elvira, her comedy and preemptory interjections perfectly timed; she was truly a thorn in Giovanni’s side. As delicious as Act I was, Act II held the most glorious singing of the evening, including Cano’s “Mi tradì quell’alma ingrata.” Cano’s pulsating precision in melismatic passages and thrilling resonance up and down the range were pure luxury. Mané Galoyan, the flaxen-wigged Donna Anna, had paramount control over her sound, with breathtaking pianissimo singing in “Non mi dir.” The allure of Meigui Zhang’s voice as Zerlina understandably captivated Andrew Gilstrap’s Masetto in “Batti, Batti.” Tenor Duke Kim gave a spell-binding performance as Don Ottavio, delivering an exceptional “Il mio tesoro.”
Although the Commendatore—sung by unflinching bass George —emerged to escort Giovanni to hell at the end of Act II, he was denied that privilege here by stage director McIntyre, who altered the finale of Mozart’s dramma giocoso significantly. McIntyre deleted the larghetto at the end of Act II and reimagined Giovanni’s death as a shooting that paralleled the opening of the opera, perhaps fulfilling Giovanni’s karmic destiny as well as the film noir theme. —Stephanie Adrian
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