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Juilliard Students Sing ‘Don Giovanni’

April 17, 1986

NEW YORK (AP) _ It was no surprise that the Juilliard American Opera Center’s presentation Wednesday of Mozart’s ″Don Giovanni″ was full of fresh, young voices, but Ana-Gloria Vazquez gave a particularly strong performance in the role of Donna Anna.

Miss Vazquez has a splendidly produced lyric soprano, with a glowing tone, and a coloratura facility. She doesn’t sound like Montserrat Caballe, but she’s a soprano in that style.

Another standout was Brian Matthews as Leporello. His voice is full and rich but never too much for the part. His acting looked the best on the stage. Stephen Biggers as Don Giovanni sang and acted well. But he was an ensemble player, one who works to set up plays and helps his team score though he may not be the star. Ensemble performance is important in opera. But when you’re singing the title role in an opera about a man who’s dynamite with women, it’s time to get intense and project some dynamite.

Andrea Cawelti and Korliss Uecker were good as Donna Elvira and Zerlina. Ruben Broitman was uneven as Don Ottavio.

The important job of conducting was fortunately placed in extremely capable hands. Klauspeter Seibel, permanent guest conductor of the Hamburg and Frankfurt operas, was making his U.S. operatic debut. The Juilliard Orchestra could not be faulted.

Dino Yannopoulos, who directed at the Metropolitan Opera for 22 years, found interesting staging for sextets. However, he made Zerlina unduly bloodthirsty, repeatedly knifing Leporello while tieing him up. And he kept having entrances and exits through trapdoors that tipped up like hinged manhole covers. Surely Mozart didn’t intend walks through the sewer system of Seville.

John Scheffler designed workable dark-gray walls which could be pushed around as various backgrounds. Instead of Don Giovanni making an expected final exit down a trapdoor bathed in red light, he’s crushed between two sections of wall. John Gleason did the lighting, which was wonderfully weird for the huge Statue and Don Giovanni’s last moments.

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