LA Opera continues to indulge in this peculiar habit of presenting novel, if not downright eccentric, stagings of such rarities as “Turn of the Screw,” “The Turk in Italy” and its current “The Two Foscari,” while presenting the most standard-issue productions of Mozart’s oft-seen warhorses, in this case “Don Giovanni.” Bare-bones sets, costumes and staging are so generic here that we could be watching “Figaro” or “Cosi.”
Of course, the music is “Giovanni.” And the story is Don Juan, the libertine who lived too soon to ever know the joys of Grindr, which has the potential to turn every contempo man into a total slut.
Helmer Gregory A. Fortner, after Peter Stein’s original production, seems to have ingested too many Judd Apatow movies, pushing his Don Giovanni (Ildebrando D’Arcangelo) and Leporello (David Bizic) to be Paul Rudd and Seth Rogen. Actually, that’s about the only interpretation we get here of Mozart’s masterpiece. It’s hokie, and their comic silliness only diminishes the drama. Not until opera’s end when Giovanni is condemned to hell by the splendid Commendatore of Ievgen Orlov do we see and hear what we’ve been missing: the real tragedy of a nobleman turned murderous rake.
Most of the voices on display are pleasant but, like the staging, generic. An exception is Julianna Di Giacomo, as Donna Anna, who has the kind of sizable, well-focused instrument that pins you to your seat with laser precision. Unfortunately, she ran afoul with the high-flying tessitura of “Non mi dir.”
Soile Isokoski, arguably the most well-known singer on stage, offers a curiously cautious Donna Elvira, the vengeful woman who just can’t let Giovanni go. Elvira on tip toes? That’s a not very interesting contradiction.
There are those recordings called “Opera Without Voices,” which let you just listen to the music. Sometimes it was best to just close your eyes and listen to James Conlon, who never fails to provide a sublime reading of Mozart.