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Originally published Saturday, April 2, 2011 at 9:56 AM

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Young Artists' 'Don Giovanni': Enjoyable music, despite distractions

A review of Mozart's "Don Giovanni," as presented by the Young Artists Program of Seattle Opera. Director Peter Kazaras, whose inventive genius has consistently impressed, missed the mark this time, says reviewer Bernard Jacobson.

Special to The Seattle Times

Additional performances

' Don Giovanni'

Seattle Opera's Young Artists Program, Theatre at Meydenbauer Center, 11100 NE 6th St., Bellevue, 2 p.m. April 3, 7:30 p.m. April 7 and 9; $20-$50 (206-389-7676, 800-426-1619 or www.seattleopera.org).

Opera Review |

Time and again, directing operas as diverse as "Tristan und Isolde," "Falstaff," "L'Enfant et les sortilèges," and "A Midsummer Night's Dream," Peter Kazaras has confounded expectation. Production concepts read about in advance have given me the willies by virtue of their seeming perversity, only to bowl me over, when realized on stage, with their much more profound rightness.

But not this time. The man, I say again, is a genius. But Homer is said to have nodded, and even the most brilliant director must be allowed an off night, which is what I have to call the production of "Don Giovanni" (in Mozart's revised Vienna version) that Kazaras and his Young Artists opened on Friday in Bellevue's Theatre at Meydenbauer Center.

It's fair to guess that Kazaras's original staging ideas must have been both more coherent and more convincing before budget stringencies intervened. In the event, on Donald Eastman's bare set, there was no unity about the production. Stretches of naturalistic acting intermittently gave place for no apparent reason to stylization — one long passage in the second act had the singers in silhouette gesticulating ritualistically against a dark blue background. The back wall was also used as a screen for projections of a variety of old film clips, which served more to distract from music and plot than to illuminate them. Doing the opera without chorus created some nonsensical moments. And if the showing of a Mickey Mouse cartoon at the end of intermission had some deep significance, this critic is not clever enough to have understood it.

Musically, there was much to enjoy. Brian Garman's orchestra sounded less polished than usual, but Marcy Stonikas as Donna Anna, Erik Anstine as Leporello, Andrew Stenson as Don Ottavio (though got up to look like Peter Lorre in some sinister crime movie), Jacqueline Bezek as Zerlina, and Adrian Rosas doubling as Masetto and the Commendatore all displayed strong voices. Much of their singing, however, was not only too loud for a theater of Meydenbauer's congenially modest size but also woefully approximate in intonation. The Donna Elvira, Amanda Opuszynski, initially avoided the latter problem, but her "Mi tradì" near the end emerged as little more than a caricature of that gorgeous aria. So it was left to David Krohn, in the title role, to provide the only consistently enjoyable and accurate singing of the evening.

Altogether, then, this was a soufflé that failed to rise.

Bernard Jacobson: bernardijacobson@comcast.net

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