Scott Connor wrestles with Commendatore in Don Gio

Academy of Vocal Arts’s lusty production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni finishes up it area run today. Tito Capobianco returned  to direct, but had to leave the production when his wife, Elena, passed away. Justin Johnson, the assistant director, took over and equal credit should go to both for the finished production. 

Capobianco’s signatures are immediately apparent in the pulse of the scenes, the naturalness of the characters and, the ensemble quality of the cast. Conductor Christopher Macatsoris and AVA orchestra just hurl us into the opera’s musical grandeur, drama and wit

The dizzying narrative of love, lust and all the ironies in between unfolds from the initial darkness of the overture that gives way to thrilling Mozartian effervescence. It underscores the lusty scene onstage as Don Giovanni in a mask breaks in Donna Anna’s boudoir, peals off his coat of arms and molests her on a red velvet divan where she sleeps. Anna either thinks it is her husband to be, or pretends to be dreaming. Scott Connor just owns Don Gio’s lustful swagger and as offensive as that can be to contemporary audiences, his basso is big, assured and as sublimely lithe as Mozart’s music.

He toys with the emotions and bodies of all of the townswomen as he bests the men who try to stop him, in the bedroom and the town square. Bass-baritone Musa Ngqungwana as Leporello, DG’s manservant, is vocally commanding in a breakout role, attending to broad comedy and scabrous asides.

The women wrestling with Don convey well their conflicted passion, for lust and revenge. Soprano Alexandra Maximova is Donna Anna, his first conquest, doesn‘t over-sing the ariatic laments when she finds out he has lanced her father. In contrast, soprano Chloe Moore is a belty soprano playing Elvira, the cuckolded wife, for its humiliating comedy. Chrystal E. Williams is the new bride Zerlina, who is seduced by the Don on her wedding day and knows how to flirt heavily with a light mezzo.

Other outstanding performances are Zachary Nelson, bass-baritone, as the hapless husband and tenor Luigi Boccia saving all of his muscle as Ottavio, for the third act floating those unending vocal lines. The final tableaux of Don Giovanni being visited hell by that specter in armor was rendered fog, red fabric among the bacchanalian frescos and one icy basso hurling him to hell.

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