Despite a few flaws, the Fort Worth Opera’s performance of Don Giovanni on Sunday afternoon provided its fair share of musical and dramatic thrills. The singing ranged from adequate to excellent, the acting beat par, and sets and costumes established a suitable atmosphere.
One element may disturb those familiar with Mozart’s masterpiece: Fort Worth chops off the epilogue, instead ending the opera at the point where the Commendatore drags Don Giovanni off to Hell. The precedents for the cut go back a long way, and conductor Joe Illick makes a reasonable case for it here. But still, ending the opera on a downer is at odds with the ironic, almost smirky tone of much of the work. I like the cheerful “What the hell; let’s get on with life” tone of the epilogue.
With his commanding air and insouciance, Michael Todd Simpson makes a physically and vocally convincing Don, though on Sunday afternoon he had some pitch problems in his second-act serenade to Donna Elvira’s maid. A more general flaw was some ensemble disagreement between the onstage musicians and those in the pit.
Still, nothing fatal, and you have to give Fort Worth credit for two such superb artists as Holli Harrison (Donna Elvira) and Susanna Phillips (as Donna Anna, above, with Michael Todd Simpson as the Don). And they get solid backing from a cast including Tom Corbeil (Leporello), David Portillo (Don Ottavio), Matthew Treviño (the Commendatore), Matthew Young (Masetto) and Ashley Kerr (Zerlina).
The Fort Worth Symphony under Illick’s baton played reasonably, though perhaps a little more rehearsal time would have been a plus.
The stage direction by Richard Kagey was effective even considering the Case of the Missing Epilogue (the Don’s descent into Hell works unusually well), and the sets by R. Keith Brumley and costumes by Howard Tsvi Kaplan seem solid and appropriate.
Don Giovanni, along with The Elixir of Love and Before Night Falls, will wind up the Fort Worth Opera’s 2010 festival next weekend.