Concludes the 30th Anniversary Season of  O.S.J.  Triumphantly

By Iride Aparicio

Photos by: Pat Kirk

Evan Brummel as Don Giovanni & Jennifer Forni as Donna Anna
Evan Brummel as Don Giovanni & Jennifer Forni as Donna Anna

SAN JOSÉ, CA At the end of  Opera San Jose's Don Giovanni’s  presentation on Saturday, April 26th, at the California Theatre, the production got a long standing ovation. It was not perfect, but the music and the voices of the singers were outstanding on that night.

The orchestra, under the direction of  Conductor GEORGE CLEVE, played each note in tune, enabling the  audience to listen to a flawless Overture. Through out the work, the orchestra played the sublime WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART’s  ( 1756-1791) musical score  masterfully, allowing the melodies to  flow, emphasizing each syncopation, controlling the dynamics of the arias to allow each singer to display his or her voice.

And on that night, the voices of  all the singers had a marvelous sound. We will start, by describing the purity of the tone and the crystalline sounding tessitura in the voice of  JENNIFER FORNI who played the role of Donna Anna. In the throat of the former Metropolitan Opera soprano, Mozart’s music emanated fluidly, his arias saturated with feeling. Her melismas sounding like flute’s tones, as they rapidly ascended and descended the pentagram, in a breathless resonance

Acting her role of Donna Anna, Forni played her different emotions well.  She acted passionate, when almost seduced in her bedroom by the masked Don Giovanni. Infatuated,  to the  point of asking Don Giovanni not to go. She acted bereaved, even faint, when staring at the corpse of her slain father singing an aria saying that she longs to die. And she acted determined to find his father’s killer when asking Don Octavio, her fiancé, to revenge his father’s death. As in her singing, in her acting, the soprano was superb.

Baritone EVAN BRUMMEL in the role of  Don Giovanni
Baritone EVAN BRUMMEL in the role of  Don Giovanni

Singing the role of  Don Giovanni, baritone BRUMMEL had the correct tessitura to play his character. He has a powerful voice and he could master the technicalities of the Mozart’s score.  So, where the baritone needed improvement was not in his singing technique, which was flawless, but in the impersonation of his “character.

BRUMMEL played the role of  Don Giovanni, as a proud man, demonstrating his noble status, but he was unable to portray Don Giovanni as a seducer. The audience needed to see that,  for the role to be convincing. Don Giovanni is  suave, and conning man, but he is charming, and knows how to attract women with his charm. In his performance, BRUMMEL’s Don Giovanni needed the charm to make the audience believe he could seduce any woman he wanted..

One singer who displayed plenty of  charm on that night, was KRASSEN KARAGIOZOV, in his role of Leporello (Don Giovanni’s Servant). The  Baritone, is also a singer with a mellow tone of voice that  he knows how to use when he sings.  He was also one of the few singers on that night, who sang  the Italian libretto of the ópera, written by  LORENZO DA PONTE, with perfect Italian pronunciation. His “comic acting” on that night, was excellent. His Leporello  knew how to make the audience laugh by using the appropriate mimic and a variety of  facial expressions. 

                         Baritone KRASSEN KARAGIOZOV in his role as Leporello  
                               Baritone KRASSEN KARAGIOZOV in his role as Leporello

Leporello is the first character we see at the beginning of the Opera. It is late at night and he is complaining, in a soft tone, that as Don Giovanni’s servant, he has to wait outside the houses and play guard to Don Giovanni, while he is seducing a woman. inside.

The role of Leporello is comic, yet  KRASSEN  played it “natural” specially when he reveals to love-starving  Donna Elvira (Lisa Chavez), a woman now abandoned by Don Giovanni, that he keeps a record of his  Master’s conquests written in a book,  and begins reading to her: 640 women in Italia, 231 women in Alemania and 1,003 in Spain. Adding that these women belong to different social classes, are of all colors, and while most of them are young, some are old. .  His expressive eyes and exaggerated hand gestures captivated the audience from that moment on, until the end of the performance.

Another excellent  acting/singing performance on that night was the one of Zerlina, played  by Mezzo-Soprano TANIA MANDZY. In the story, Zerlina is a shepherdess who is about to get married with Masetto, another shepherd (Played by baritone BRYAN JAMES MYER). She is young and beautiful so when don GIOVANNI meets her, he tries to seduce on her wedding day by tricking the young couple  to go to his house for “a wedding party” and asking Leporello, to keep Masetto away from them all night.

MANDZY was wonderful singing, in a flirtatious manner, her very sensual aria to Masetto, who has been beaten by Don Giovanni, asking him to forgive her and assuring him that don Giovanni, did not touch her on that night. As poor Mazzeto, lays on the street screaming in pain, she sits next to him, caresses his face and sings to him that she can cure him with the “secret potion” that she keeps inside her heart. The scene was charming. As Masetto, MYER sang well and his acting skills made his character look natural.

As Donna Elvira, the abandoned ex-lover of don Giovanni, still tormented and still in love with him,  Mezzo-Soprano LISA CHAVEZ, was unable to master the acting in her role. CHAVEZ has a beautiful-sounding tessitura, and  her technical interpretation of  Mozart’s melodies was perfect,  but the Mezzo Soprano was unable to represent the different emotions of Donna Elvira: her torture, her despair, her passion, her rage. She played them all with the same facial expression.

The role of Donna Elvira in the ópera is a dramatic role. To master it, requires good acting, even exaggerated acting, at times, to make the audience wonder if the woman is really “crazy” as Don Giovanni claims. CHAVEZ' Donna Elvira was subdue. She needed more emotion, more pasion.

                        Mezzo-Soprano Lisa Chavez as Donna
                                           Mezzo-Soprano Lisa Chavez as Donna Elvira

As Don Octavio Tenor MARC SCHREINER sang well, maybe too softly at times. Yet, as a lover, his solo arias, in which he reveals his great love for Donna Anna, needed passion. His duets with Donna Anna, however, sounded lovely and were well harmonized.

SCHREINER  acting of his character,  was weak. His demeanor through the play could not convince the audience, that he could help Donna Anna revenge her father’s death. As an actor, what  SCHREINER needed on that night was more vitality.
                           Tenor MARC SCHREINER and sopran JENNIFER FORNI 
                                Tenor MARC SCHREINER and soprano JENNIFER FORNI
The deep full tone of Bass SILAS ELASH made  him a powerful Commedatore. His role was short, but allowed him to have a brief sword duel with don Giovanni that look realistic.

The ending in this version of  MOZART’s Don Giovanni, disappointed some of us in the audience who were waiting to see the lapping flames of Hell on the stage. But the production, directed by DANIEL J. WITZKE was professional. The audience like it. It gave it a long standing ovation.

DON GIOVANNI will be played at the California Theatre in San Jose until Sunday May 4th. They can be ordered at OSJ Box Office 408-437-4450 or online at: BOXOFFICE@OPERASJ.ORG.