Tanglewood Music Festival 2022 – Andris Nelsons conducts Mozart’s Don Giovanni

Don Giovanni – Opera in two Acts to a libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte [concert staging; sung in Italian with English supertitles by Sonya Friedman]

Leporello – Will Liverman
Donna Anna – Michelle Bradley
Don Giovanni – Ryan McKinny
The Commendatore – Ryan Speedo Green
Don Ottavio– Amitai Pati
Donna Elvira – Nicole Cabell
Zerlina – Janai Brugger
Masetto – Cody Quattlebaum

Tanglewood Festival Chorus

Boston Symphony Orchestra
Andris Nelsons

Reviewed by: David M. Rice

Reviewed: 16 July, 2022
Venue: Koussevitzky Music Shed, Tanglewood, Lenox, Massachusetts

Although billed as a concert staging, the singers moved about, interacting, and singing from memory as they would in a full staging. There were missing elements, such as props, scenery and costume changes, and some parts of the action – such as the slaying of the Commendatore – were not fully depicted. Nevertheless, the performance successfully told the story and offered wonderful singing.

Although the plot centers on the title character and his sometimes unwilling but ultimately faithful servant Leporello, I found myself drawn more to the three women whom the Don pursues, given contrasting and fascinating characterizations.  Michelle Bradley’s Donna Anna comes across as a stern and strong aristocrat, her voice ringing out powerfully as she resists Giovanni’s advances and swears vengeance on her father’s killer, pressing her more passive fiancé, Don Ottavio, into joining that oath. Later, when she realizes that Giovanni is the murderer, she gives a vivid description of his assault on her (‘Allora rinforzo i stridi miei’) and plots with Ottavio and Donna Elvira to entrap him. Nicole Cabell’s Elvira is a spitfire, enraged by Giovanni’s past and present abuses, but willing almost to the end to give him yet another chance.  Her Act Two ‘In quali eccessi … Mi tradì quell’alma ingrata’ was a highlight. Janai Brugger aptly portrays Zerlina as a charming but gullible peasant girl who, despite Giovanni’s enticements in their beautiful ‘Là ci darem la mano’ and afterward, remains loyal to her fiancé, Masetto. She is apologetic to him in the tenderly sung ‘Batti, batti, o bel Masetto’, and later comforts him sweetly after he has been beaten by Giovanni (clothed as Leporello).

Ryan McKinny and Will Liverman made an amusing team. Right from the outset, Liverman excelled in expressing Leporello’s dissatisfaction with being a servant and his disdain for his master’s misdeeds, explaining to Elvira with rapid patter that he has catalogued the Don’s conquests in detail. Liverman makes the most of Leporello’s discomfort by wearing Giovanni’s clothing, pulling his jacket over his face to avoid being recognized as the voice of the hidden Don beckons Elvira. Then, after Giovanni chases Leporello and Elvira away to serenade Elvira’s maid, McKinny offered a lovely rendition of the mandolin-accompanied ‘Deh vieni alla finestra’. His portrayal of Giovanni as a devil-may-care rake contrasted sharply with the Don’s powerful defiance in the final scene. 

Amitai Pati’s tenor shone with delicacy in Don Ottavio’s two arias, the soliloquy ‘Dalla sua pace’ in Act One, in which Ottavio expresses his devotion to Anna, and ‘Il mio tesoro’ in Act Two, renewing his promise of vengeance. Cody Quattlebaum is an excellent Masetto, initially showing subservience to the noble Don but grumbling at Zerlina’s apparent disloyalty, and later proving adept at winning Zerlina’s sympathetic and comforting attentions.

Ryan Speedo Green is superb as the Commendatore, both in his fatal encounter with Giovanni in the opening scene, and later as his statue speaks, terrifying Leporello, but evoking defiant bravado from Giovanni. One could almost feel the chill generated by Green‘s booming bass as Giovanni grips the statue’s hand and refuses its entreaties to repent, condemning himself to being consumed in flames. In a delightful account of the epilogue, the characters contemplate a happier and more moral future with the Don consigned to Hell.

Andris Nelsons led a modest-sized Boston Symphony in a marvelous, idiomatic traversal of the score, giving life both to Mozart’s darkly atmospheric music and his bright melodic lines, without ever overbalancing the singers. Members of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus also performed admirably.

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