'Don Giovanni' is for lovers


By GUY D’ASTOLFO

dastolfo@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

If there is one thing that symphony lovers, the theater crowd and yes, even your everyday rock’n’rollers can agree on, it just might be opera.

Every November, you’ll see all three factions represented at Opera Western Reserve’s annual production.

This year, OWR is staging “Don Giovanni,” a story of lust, murder and retribution.

Michael Young, who is singing the role of Masseto in the production, offered one explanation as to opera’s genre-crossing appeal.

“An opera has something in common with all three of those groups,” said the baritone and Cortland native. “There is a symphony orchestra playing. There are actors on the stage. And the story is the rock ’n’ roll of its day — especially ‘Don Giovanni’.”

The famed work by Mozart is about a dashing young man whose chief amusement is seducing women. It begins with a murder and ends, literally, in hell.

David Vosburgh, director of OWR, has noticed the wide-ranging audiences at performances. “We get a very interesting cross section of ages and musical interests,” he said.

Why is that?

“It’s just musical theater,” explained Vosburgh. “It’s not elitist.”

Opera Western Reserve will present “Don Giovanni” at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Stambaugh Auditorium. The production will be conducted by music director Susan Davenny Wyner, with sets and stage direction by Vosburgh. Ballet Western Reserve, under artistic director Stas Kmiec, will handle choreography and dancing.

The cast will be headed by baritone Luis Alejandro Orozco in the title role, making his OWR debut. A native of Cincinnati, Orozco has just completed a season with Des Moines Metro Opera, where he sang Escamillo in “Carmen.”

The story of “Don Giovanni” — more commonly known in theater history as Don Juan — is iconic. But for those who don’t know it, Vosburgh offered some background about the legendary womanizer.

“Don Giovanni is a libertine,” said Vosburgh. “He has no compunction toward having sex with any woman. He is liberated, wealthy and handsome. It’s all consensual, of course. Every man wants to be Don Giovanni, and every woman wants to spend a weekend with him.”

Young said the opera has a story structure that draws in an audience.

“There are three subplots,” he said. “It’s almost like an episode of ‘Seinfeld’ in that there is that ‘a-ha’ moment when you realize it’s all the same thing.”

Friday’s production will be the first time OWR has staged the famed Mozart work.

Vosburgh said the company, now in its 11th year, continues to improve.

“Every year our cast gets stronger,” he said.

That strength equates to an ability to fill roles with precision. “We can cast people who are right for the age of their character,” said Vosburgh, pointing out that “Don Giovanni” is a show for young people.

The quality of the cast also must be uniformly strong.

“A Mozart opera is such an ensemble opera,” said Vosburgh. “All seven must be equally strong because they sing together so much. I must find voices that blend.”

Rounding out the cast:

Luke Scott, of Hartford, Conn., who recently sang the title role in “The Marriage of Figaro” at the Hubbard Hall Opera Theater in upstate New York, will sing Leporello.

Pittsburgh soprano Lara Lynn Cottrill also will make her company debut as Donna Anna, and soprano Marian Vogel, of Medina, who was heard in the Cleveland Orchestra’s “The Cunning Little Vixen” and in OWR’s “Tosca” and “La Boheme,” returns as Donna Elvira.

Tenor Timothy M.R. Culver, a voice faculty member at Kent State University who was in OWR’s “La Traviata,” will play Don Ottavio.

The young lovers, Zerlina and Masetto, will be sung by soprano Danielle Messina, of Cincinnati, and Young, who was Scarpia in OWR’s “Tosca” and Marcello in “La Boheme.”

The chorus, drawn from the Youngstown Connection, the Stambaugh Chorus and others, will be under Hae-Jong Lee, director of choral activities at Youngstown State University.

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