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Bernstein Lights Up 'Don Giovanni'

Opera review: The second cast's bass-baritone offers detailed vocals and an electric portrayal of the title figure.

March 18, 1997|SUSAN BLISS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

COSTA MESA — In the title role with the second cast of Mozart's "Don Giovanni" on Sunday afternoon at the Orange County Performing Arts Center, Richard Bernstein offered dark-toned reliability and more in a powerful mid-range, along with detail-conscious vocal characterization.

Still, one of his greatest contributions to Opera Pacific's production was his acting ability.

From his entrance as the would-be-ravisher of Donna Anna, the bass-baritone created an electricity that lasted until the moment of his inevitable, hell-bent demise. His lasciviousness held a carefree virility, at once repulsive and attractive, ensuring that Elvira's predicament--as his scorned lover, vacillating between a desire for revenge and reconciliation--seem more poignant than stupid.

No sparks flew between Brenda Harris as Donna Anna and Yu Jixing as her faithful and long-suffering Don Ottavio. Harris offered a rich soprano, unflappable in coloratura passages, with a slight shrillness toward the end of "Or sai chi l'onore," but none later, when tiredness might have been expected. She touched listeners with evocative vocal nuance but held herself otherwise restrained.

Yu Jixing surpassed her restraint with total stiffness. His Don Ottavio could boast a steely-toned tenor, interesting for its piercing quality and its focus, but it had no clear attachment to the action at hand. As a result, his avowal of love-inspired vengeance ("Il mio tesoro") packed all the passion of a dutiful etude.

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