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Don Giovanni

Des Moines Metro Opera, 2012

Mark Thomas Ketterson – Opera News

Des Moines Metro Opera celebrated its ruby anniversary with a three-opera season that gathered a beloved Mozart dramma giocoso, the company’s intitial foray into Russian repertoire and an achingly romantic confection by Puccini.

DMMO’s first-rate Don Giovanni (seen June 29) was graced by a powerful performance of the leading role, a strong trio of inamoratas and an insightful staging by Tim Ocel that registered with the theatrical truth of a legit drama. Michael Mayes traded in his habitually genial persona for a skillful portrait of the enigmatic Don; this guy was one sadistic, irresistibly attractive, alpha-male jerk. Better yet, he sang beautifully. Lobby buzz made much of his shirtless scene (yes, he looked great), but that was a mere plus in his intelligently conceived performance. Marjorie Owens delivered a marvelous Donna Anna, with all the power for “Or sai chi l’onore” and coloratura finesse for “Non mi dir.” Brenda Harris contributed a darkly amusing Elvira, keenly responsive to text, and Zulimar López-Hernández, the Zerlina, emerged as a real person, not a cardboard coquette. Rod Nelman’s sardonic Leporello was spot-on. Matthew Plenk’s sweet tenor displayed some particularly lovely shading in Ottavio’s “Dalla sua pace.” The Commendatore was Stefan Szkafarowsky, Edward Hanlon the manly Masetto. Conductor David Neely led a thrilling account of the score. This was possibly the most satisfying Giovanni I have encountered on the regional opera scene in the U.S. …

With a design of elegant grey stonework for the Mozart, Andrew Boyce made the interesting choice to cover over DMMO’s emblematic playing circle, creating an enhanced sense of space in one of the most impressive physical productions seen at the house in recent memory. The Onegin environment …

The enviable success of the season — entirely planned by artistic director Michael Egel, who succeeded company founder Robert Larsen in 2011 — and the happy news of David Neely’s appointment as DMMO’s first-ever music director, as of September 2012, portend some exciting operatic growth at Des Moines in years to come.

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