Thursday, June 21, 2018
Stage

Don Giovanni is a wicked winner to close out Opera Tampa's season

TAMPA — Opera Tampa concludes its season this weekend by going for broke with Don Giovanni and certainly the most lavish set this year, not to mention a world-class baritone in the title role.

The Florida Opera Festival, three productions over three months at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, reminds us with this one what an asset the program is for the Tampa Bay area. The effort also dimly hints at ambitions that might yet be conceived, heights that one day may be achieved. This Don Giovanni has not been modernized nor adorned with video imagery, as some companies have chosen to do. Apart from some pyrotechnics at the end, this is a straightforward treatment.

Nonetheless, it is clear that the company has gone all out, giving an immortal opera by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart as much punch as possible. Based on the legend of Don Juan and written by librettist Lorenzo da Ponte, the story centers on opera's greatest rogue. It opens darkly with an attempted rape of Donna Anna (sung with chiseled delicacy by Rocio Ignacio) by Spanish nobleman Don Giovanni, followed by the murder of the victim's father, who intervened at the cost of his life.

That scene introduces an oddly endearing pair, the villain and his hapless servant. As Leporello, who must reluctantly cover for his master's misdeeds, David Cushing takes advantage of one of the opera's more finely drawn roles, and with a solid bass baritone delivery.

Carlos Alvarez as Giovanni delivers an unforgettable performance, thanks to his profoundly gorgeous baritone pipes. A major star still at the top of his game, Alvarez alternates in the opening scene between the faintest blurry edges and the purest of tones, and only gets better from there. A particularly accessible example: Giovanni's serenade to the chambermaid of Donna Elvira, his discarded lover at the start of Act II.

A fine cast of principals reacts to Giovanni's felonious deeds. Kenneth Kellogg as Il Commendatore, the father who dies in Act I, serves Giovanni a chilling comeuppance from beyond the grave, dragging the unrepentant and committed hedonist to hell in a bedrock, if somewhat gravelly, bass. Not long before that, Miriam Khalil as Donna Elvira masters a difficult love-hate aria with a tragic urgency.

Three pillars of this year's season will surely be missed. Cecilia Violetta Lopez (who played Violetta in La Traviata) again anchored a major role with vocal richness as the peasant girl Zerlina, whom Giovanni hopes to add to his list of conquests. Cody Austin, a bell clear tenor, and Gabriel Preisser play the good-hearted but outwitted suitors Don Ottavio and Masetto in a way that shows they care about performance as well as hitting the money notes.

Meanwhile, artistic director and conductor Daniel Lipton again brings out the passion from a full orchestra and chorus. Before Friday's performance, Straz Center president and CEO Judith Lisi announced the lineup for Opera Tampa's 2016-17 season to an appreciative audience.

Contact Andrew Meacham at [email protected] or (727) 892-2248. Follow @torch437.

Comments
On stage this week: Freefall Theatre’s ‘The Musical of Musicals,’ Jay Pharoah

On stage this week: Freefall Theatre’s ‘The Musical of Musicals,’ Jay Pharoah

SENDUP: MUSICAL OF MUSICALSFive composers, a talented cast, choreography by Cheryl Lee and music directed by Michael Raabe — that’s Freefall Theatre’s recipe for a laugh-filled, season-ending summer musical, appropriately titled The Musical of Musica...
Published: 06/20/18
Jobsite’s ‘Dancing at Lughnasa’ should be more gripping than it is

Jobsite’s ‘Dancing at Lughnasa’ should be more gripping than it is

TAMPA — The virtues of Dancing at Lughnasa, with which Jobsite Theater closes its season, are many. This drama by the celebrated Brian Friel opened in 1990 to much acclaim. It captures a family’s joys and sadnesses, and the quickness with which one s...
Published: 06/19/18
Irish boxer brings his dream to St. Petersburg

Irish boxer brings his dream to St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — In his vision for this weekend, Connor Coyle is standing in the ring at the Coliseum, and the referee is raising his gloved fist.He’s got a National Boxing Association middleweight championship belt around his waist, the first of sev...
Published: 06/15/18
Irish boxer brings his dream to St. Petersburg

Irish boxer brings his dream to St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — In his vision for this weekend, Connor Coyle is standing in the ring at the Coliseum, and the referee is raising his gloved fist.He’s got a National Boxing Association middleweight championship belt around his waist, the first of sev...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/16/18
Why this ballet dancer is skipping college in favor of her own St. Petersburg Ballet Conservatory

Why this ballet dancer is skipping college in favor of her own St. Petersburg Ballet Conservatory

GULFPORT — Brianna Melton is as serious a ballet student as they come.By her junior year at St. Petersburg High’s International Baccalaureate program, she had already spent four summers training with ballet companies across the country and had narrow...
Published: 06/14/18
What’s on stage: The Illusionists, ‘Dancing at Lughnasa,’ G. David Howard

What’s on stage: The Illusionists, ‘Dancing at Lughnasa,’ G. David Howard

OPENING: DANCING AT LUGHNASAIrish playwright Brian Friel, who died in 2015 at 86, won’t be traveling anymore. But I’ll bet he packed a tidy suitcase. Dancing at Lughnasa, Jobsite Theater’s season closer, manages to address a lot of issues: race, reli...
Published: 06/13/18
Ruth Eckerd Hall tees up comedy, romance and Kristin Chenoweth for 2018-19 Broadway season

Ruth Eckerd Hall tees up comedy, romance and Kristin Chenoweth for 2018-19 Broadway season

Ruth Eckerd Hall rolls out a new lineup of musicals for its 2018-19 season, a mix of comedy, favorite musicals and romance."For the last 35 years, Broadway has always been a staple at Ruth Eckerd Hall," chief executive officer Zev Buffman said in a p...
Published: 06/12/18
A tense night at the Tony Awards ends in euphoria for Largo doctor Jeffrey Grove

A tense night at the Tony Awards ends in euphoria for Largo doctor Jeffrey Grove

Dr. Jeffrey Grove sat three-quarters of the way back from the stage at Radio City Music Hall, waiting for his moment. The Largo physician made the trip with family to New York for Sunday’s Tony Awards, where he hoped to see his investment in O...
Published: 06/11/18
Neal Boyd, ‘America’s Got Talent’ winner, dies at 42

Neal Boyd, ‘America’s Got Talent’ winner, dies at 42

SIKESTON, Mo. — Neal Boyd, an opera singer who won America’s Got Talent and dabbled in Missouri politics, has died. Scott County Coroner Scott Amick says Boyd died around 6 p.m. Sunday at his mother’s house in Sikeston. He was 42. Amick says Boyd had...
Published: 06/11/18
Parkland drama teens bring down the house with stirring performance at Tony Awards

Parkland drama teens bring down the house with stirring performance at Tony Awards

Members of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School’s drama team stole the show at the 72nd Annual Tony Awards Sunday night.The performance brought the crowd— many of whom were wiping tears from their eyes— to its collective feet at the Radio City Music ...
Published: 06/11/18