Vocalist - Bass-Baritone
Nashville Opera does justice to Mozart's 'Don Giovanni'
Nashville Opera's Don Giovanni is an inventive 21st century homage to the timeless genius of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Stage Director John Hoomes -- also the Nashville Opera's artistic director -- knows the master's creation is a friend to imagination. That understanding shines in this production of the 1787 comic-tragic story about a lecherous lord who tempts fate once too often.

Ingenuity appears all the way through. That's true from the first scene where the names of the title character's conquests appear across the stage, through to a plugged-in moon, often-abstract backdrops and a delightful twist I won't reveal as the evening concludes.

These elements compliment, but don't distract from, one of opera's most-beloved scores. Kris Stone's playful scenic design and Noele Stollmack's crisp lighting give us blue, green and other colors on a stage that becomes a dream-like world. It serves the fantastical components of this darkly comic morality tale well.

The traditional 18th century costumes, wigs and makeup, overseen respectively by Pam Lisenby and Sondra Nottingham, give the appropriate physical framing to the characters we meet.

Those characters are played by singers whose fine voices are matched by their believable acting. One of Hoomes' great strengths is he not only knows but also celebrates the fact that opera is also theater. He doesn't hire performers who are only good at standing and delivering an aria or recitative as if it's a recital; he casts those who can create full-bodied characters through physical gesture and movement as well as vocal variety.

Baritone Michael Todd Simpson's Don Giovanni is a villain, but he's a sexy, charming cad who demands attention whenever and wherever he's on stage. His long-suffering servant Leporello is played with comedic gusto by bass-baritone Eduardo Chama.

Two of the many women wronged by the lead character are Donna Anna (soprano Christina Pier) and Donna Elvira (soprano Elizabeth Caballero). Both have to convey a mix of emotions that places great demands on them vocally and physically, and both do so admirably.

Tenor Jonathan Boyd gets some of the score's brightest moments (such is the lot of tenors, yes?) as Don Ottavio and he delivers on them all. That solid support is also true of soprano Anne-Carolyn Bird and bass-baritone David Cushing as the country girl Zerlina and her jealous bridegroom Masetto.

The voices? They're all marvelous. That includes the frightening passages sung by bass David Salsbery Fry as The Commendatore. I think even Mozart aficionados who know this show backwards will agree he brings fresh life to such an iconic role.

All principals except Boyd make their Nashville Opera debuts with Don Giovanni. Another first-timer is Maestro John Baril, music director of Central City Opera. His graceful baton and Nashville Symphony's gorgeous playing are all for which one could hope.

And last, but not least, a salute to the Nashville Opera Ensemble under Chorusmaster Amy Tate Williams and supernumeraries coordinated by Michael Rutter. I didn't see or hear a single one who wasn't completely dedicated to creating their part of this production's world. They deserve a bravo too.

This Don Giovanni is one for today and always. It honors Mozart, and us, with its inventiveness and sublime artistry.
Evans Donnell, Nashville Tennessean
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