At Strathmore, 'Don Giovanni' Is All About the Music

Monday, May 15, 2006

Presenting an opera in concert poses specific challenges, especially how to make the story line comprehensible without visual aids. The National Philharmonic devised a simple solution for Mozart's "Don Giovanni" Saturday night at the Music Center at Strathmore -- one that emphasized the music above all else.

Seated in a corner of the choral tier, John Chester of WGMS-FM served as an insightful music guide and translator for the evening, which proceeded through a chronological performance of the arias. With Chester's explanations and sensible staging for the eight singers, the plot of "Don Giovanni" unfolded around the orchestra, led by Music Director Piotr Gajewski.

In the title role, Dean Elzinga used his sinewy bass-baritone to convey the character's impish nature. The hilarious Vladimir Shvets coasted through tongue-tripping lyrics as Giovanni's lively sidekick, Leporello. Singing with a muscular, centered voice, Janice Chandler-Eteme excelled in the lyrical arias of Donna Elvira, and the sparkling soprano of Jane Ohmes commanded dramatic power as Donna Anna.

Tenor John Aler (Don Ottavio) and soprano Ilana Davidson (Zerlina) sang their roles sweetly. David Langan (Commandatore) and Matthew Shaw (Masetto) also turned in fine performances.

-- Grace Jean

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