|Don Giovanni in 1963|
The orchestra was a newly formed ensemble, and showed considerably improved cohesion over last year's showing, although there were issues in coordination with the singers. This I'm inclined to attribute to the inflexibility of conductor David Leibowitz's tempi. Balance issues in the first act were largely corrected in the second. The strings were occasionally imprecise but acquitted themselves well; the woodwinds performed with some distinction. The horns did well until the final scene, when disaster struck: the Commendatore was heralded with bizarre cacophonies. Fortunately, matters were set right for the final ensemble.
As the ruthless Commendatore, Paul Khuri Yakub almost inaudible in the first scene, but suitably sonorous in the last. Jacob Louchheim's Masetto began somewhat colorless but gained in strength as the evening went on. As Zerlina, Sydnee Waggoner gave a dramatically engaged and vocally precise performance. She made "La ci darem" into a discussion rather than a flirtation, and sang with winsome expressiveness despite unusually fast tempi in "Batti, batti." Don Ottavio (in this production entirely obtuse, as well as ineffectual) was sung by Brian Michael Moore. He sounded pinched at the outset but gave a very nice "Il mio tesoro." As Donna Anna, Kaley Lynn Soderquist was occasionally inaccurate in pitch but exhibited a soprano that was rich and full, as well as agile. She handled phrasing expressively, and did admirably in the face of orchestral muddle. The Donna Elvira of Rebecca Shorstein was plagued by a lack of synchronization with the orchestra at the outset, and she struggled with intonation in the first act. Matters improved considerably in Act II, and Shorstein's "Mi tradi" was accurate and much-applauded. Perhaps my failure to warm to her was partially due to incomprehension of her characterization. Andrew Hiers portrayed Leporello as a comic but also complicit aide to the don. He sang with rich, well-spun sound, and the expression of emotion through the voice which is crucial in this multifaceted role. He also had good vocal and dramatic chemistry with the Don Giovanni of Nicholas Wiggins. Wiggins was a charismatic presence, with a sizable, dark voice, and he sang with smooth phrasing, giving an impressive "Fin ch'han dal vino." His cry of "Viva la liberta!" was a demand for society to share his vision; the rejection of the demand achieves nothing beyond his death. For all the musical interest of the Opera Exchange's productions, their dark dramatic vision remains their most distinctive asset.