Don Giovanni November 7, 2009
By Glen Creason
A goodly crowd of opera-philes gathered at the Performing Arts Center on Saturday evening to take in yet another in the nice trend of small troupe performances of the art form. In this case it was the retelling or singing of the ever-popular Don Giovanni that features the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and the memorable libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte. The original title was loosely translated as “the rake’s punishment” and certainly the character of this Don Juan, sometimes called “licentious nobleman” and other times the more appropriately serious “serial rapist” has been mulled over for two centuries. This production at Cerritos by the six year old Mozart Festival Opera kept the production at no-frills but offered solid performances from the key players in the work.
The plot-line is straight out of soap opera literature with the caddish Don Giovanni preying on young women and using his social position and shallow promises to seduce, then abandon to a life of being ostracized by “decent” society. On one evil hand is the sleazy Don Giovanni and his right hand man of nefarious dealings Leporello. On the other is a team of moralists who try to expose his lies and make the Don pay for his crimes. In this group we have Donna Anna whose father was murdered by Don Giovanni; her betrothed who is bent on revenge for that same murder; and Dona Elvira, a woman spurned by the Don after taking advantage who is set on spreading the bad word about his dark deeds. Also caught up in the web of Don Giovanni’s nefarious chasing is Zerlina, the peasant girl and Masetto her feckless husband. The plot has more twists and turns than the Pacific Coast highway with weddings wrecked, ruses exposed, spurned lovers rally mobs to avenge the skullduggery and cemetery scenes that possess wisdom and foreboding.
The Cerritos show had plenty of good singing and strong exposition of the story that unfolds over the three hours of mostly dialogue. There are some memorable arias, especially “Il Mio Tessoro” sung beautifully by Benjamin Brecher as Don Ottavio and all of the principles were fine, especially Vytautas Juozapaitis as the terrible Don and Stefano DePeppo as Leporello who both the played their parts slightly tongue in cheek, therefore making the lead character more of a pompous fool than the downright criminal that he is in fact. All of the ladies shone, especially Viara Zhelizova as Zerlina who sings her heart out in "Vedrai, carino." These small companies may not bring a lot of bells and whistles but the soul of the great opera is certainly visible and the performance was received warmly by the faithful on this night.