Don Giovanni/La Boheme

Los Angeles review by Willard Manus

Controversy followed by magnificence. That sums up the final two Los Angeles Opera productions of 2007--DON GIOVANNI and LA BOHEME, by Mozart and Puccini, respectively.

DON GIOVANNI offered some first-rate singing, especially by baritone Erwin Schrott in the lead role. Schrott, winner of Placido Domingo's annual Operalia competition in 1998, has sung previously

in such L.A. Opera productions as Figaro and Carmen, not to speak of the 2003 production of DON, which was first seen at the Polish National Opera (Warsaw). Schrott has a mellifluous voice which, combined with charismatic stage presence, makes him an ideal Don.

There were other outstanding performers supporting him: Alexandra Deshorties as Donna Anna; Charles Castronovo as Don Octavio; Kyle Ketelsen as Leporello, in particular. But all of them were hampered by the ultra-Post Modern production which put them in bizarre costumes and settings right out of a futuristic exhibit at the 1939 World's Fair. Glittery jackets, padded shoulders and Harpo-like fright wigs were the order--and ruin--of the day. Some of the special effects, though, notably the lighting design by Brian Gale (a mainstay of Walt Disney Imagineering), were truly daring and spectacular, ditto a mirrored dance sequence created by set designer Boris F. Kudlicka and choreographer Emil Wesolowski.

The latter two artists, as well as director Marlusz Trelinski, come out of the European state-subsidized opera companies where typically the stage craft, not the writer or composer, is king. As a consequence, this DON GIOVANNI became theirs, not Mozart or the singers'.

LA BOHEME offered a more traditional production (the work of director Herbert Ross back in 1993), but it stood out nonetheless thanks largely to the robust singing of Puccini's classic work by an illustrious cast. Led by newcomer Maija Kovalevsky as Mimi and Massimo Giordano as Rodolfo, with strong help from Luca Salsi as Marcello and Oren Gradus as Colline, LA BOHEME sounded wonderful from beginning to end.

Kovalevsky may become the next big star soprano. The Latvian-born singer is young, beautiful, has a ravishing voice and is an accomplished actress. Giordano is equally promising, a young tenor with a golden sound and charismatic personality.

On tap from Jan. 10-Feb 10 is a revival of Richard Wagner's TRISTAN UND ISOLDE, with sets by David Hockney, direction by Thor Steingraber, and conducting by James Conlon. John Treleaven, Linda Watson and Eric Halfarson are some of the featured performers.

TRISTAN will be followed by Verdi's OTELLO with Jane Engels and Gallardo-Domas (Feb. 16-March 9); and RECOVERED VOICES--THE DWARF and THE BROKENJUG (Feb. 17-March 1)

All performances are at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, 135 N. Grand St. For tickets and information call (213) 972-8001 or visit