With a new Don, Lyric’s “Don Giovanni” remains a stellar night of Mozart

Wed Dec 04, 2019 at 2:46 pm

By Lawrence A. Johnson

Ryan McKinny is singing the title role in the December performances of Mozart’s Don Giovanni at Lyric Opera.

With a new singer taking on the title role, Lyric Opera’s acclaimed production of Don Giovanni, remains just as impressive an artistic success as when this revival opened last month.

Both artists originally scheduled to sing the Don pulled out of Lyric’s production. Ildar Abdrazakov was replaced by Lucas Meachem last month. And when Davide Luciano cancelled the December performances, Lyric was able to secure the services of Ryan McKinny, who was just coming off his knockout company debut as the condemned murderer Joseph De Rocher in Lyric’s Dead Man Walking.

In Tuesday night’s performance—only his second turn as the Don after a role debut with Houston Grand Opera in April—McKinny made a smooth and largely effective transition into the role of the serial seducer, fitting into the existing production superbly.

Though he is billed as a bass-baritone, McKinny’s voice sounds more like a pure, rather high baritone. At times one wanted more weight at the low end, and some of the darker coloring that conveys more of the Don’s menace and dangerous side vocally.

That apart, McKinny encompassed all of the variegated demands of the role. He threw off his humorous repartee with Matthew Rose’s Leporello with fine speed and agility, and communicated the dissolute, sadistic side of the Don as well as the seductive charisma. His lovely floated Serenade was a highlight Tuesday night.

As impressive as Lyric’s revival was last month, the show has improved since then. The slack opening scene has been tightened up and Rachel Willis-Sørensen brought more fire and focus to her arias, making her Donna Anna even more affecting.

The rest of the cast—Rose, Amanda Majeski (Donna Elvira), Ben Bliss (Don Ottavio), Ying Fang (Zerlina), Brandon Cedel (Masetto) and Mika Kares (the Commendatore) remain a stellar ensemble, ideally cast and supreme both vocally and dramatically. (Cedel seems well equipped to become an impressive Don himself in future seasons.)

Robert Falls’ fluent and stylish staging remains a fail-safe piece of theater. James Gaffigan’s conducting is simply terrific—big in character and bringing out all of the drama and humor of Mozart’s glorious score with the Lyric Opera Orchestra.

There are just two matinee performances left and no self-respecting opera fan or true Mozartian should miss this show. You may never see or hear a better Don Giovanni.

Don Giovanni will be repeated 2 p.m. Thursday and Sunday. lyricopera.org

Posted in Performances

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