Strong voices, Naples Philharmonic help 'Don Giovanni' soar
"The "Vanity Fair" of the opera house, "Don Giovanni" unearths no heroes in its three-hour playing time - only exquisitely flawed humans. That the Mozart Festival Opera direction burnishes every pitted surface in those characters guaranteed an entertaining evening in its performance Tuesday at the Philharmonic Center for the Arts. As a Lothario, Don Giovanni is a 24/7 operation (played to rakish perfection here by Vytautas Juozapaitis). Given its length, anyone playing the Don needs a baritone of extreme flexibility, to which Lithuanian star Juozapaitis seems to be born. Both he and de Peppo are reprising those roles from their appearance here in 2003, and they still fit like gloves. Juozapaitis oozes a prurient self-assurance matched to de Peppo's comic timing. Both sing with ease and stamina. Their equal is Susan Marie Pierson as Donna Elvira. She nimbly handles the impassioned coloratura of "Mi tradí quell'alma ingrata (That ungrateful soul betrayed me)" despite the fact her experience and voice tend toward the heft of Wagnerian soprano. Edelina Kaneva, the spunky Donna Anna, sings with a sweetness that never falters. Zhelezova, as Zerlina, puts on a steamy show to disarm her nearly cuckolded fiancé in "Batti, Batti, o bel Masetto" ("Beat Me, Beautiful Masetto"). And Kolhelishvili, the Commendatore, is a formidable bass from the nether world. The sets, controlled by artfully colored lights, are a credit to Mozart Festival Opera. What crowned this production, however, was a debut partnership between the opera company and the Naples Philharmonic Orchestra. Music Director George Mester opera experience and the philharmonic's solid musical machine made this performance to highest caliber opera here to date." NAPLES DAILY NEWS - Harriet Howard Heithaus – November 2006
A pleasure is hearing fully developed, mature singers at the top of their form. A treat Boston doesn't provide elsewhere. In the new production of Mozart's Die Zauberflote Pamina was the sweet-voiced and sweet-souled Veselina Vasileva, who has appeared here as Violetta and Gilda; coloratura Larissa Yudina, the ferocious, pinpoint-accurate Queen of the Night, was just here singing Donizetti's high-lying Lucia; mezzo Viara Zhelezova, Mozart's witty Third Lady, is a real trouper, having sung a brilliant Rosina in Rossini's IL BARBIERE DI SIVIGLIA, cross-dressed as Prince Orlovsky in DIE FLEDERMAUS, and cameo's as Lucia's maid. Stefano de Peppo was as adorably funny as Mozart's birdcatcher, Papageno, as he had been as Don Giovanni's manservant, Leporello; his enchanting duet with Liubov Metodieva's Papagena brought down the house. Versatile Bolshoi bass Viacheslav Pochapsky, who'd used his gravelly Russian profundo to equally impressive effect as Mussorgsky's mad tsar Boris and Rossini's hilarious tattletale Don Basilio, made a profoundly solemn high priest Sarastro. American tenor Benjamin Brecher as Prince Tamino, the hero, sang just as stylishly and elegantly as he did as Rossini's Count Almaviva. Die Zauberflote, with all its silliness and bewildering mysticism and its collection of roles difficult to fill with any vocal or theatrical consistency, is almost an impossible piece to pull off. Mainly we love it for Mozart's sublime score. This production was one of the most satisfying - comical and moving - to come our way in years." BOSTON PHOENIX - Lloyd Schwartz - April 2006
MAGIC FLUTE AT MAJESTIC
(''The Magic Flute") Saturday night added basic theatrical values to the foundation of a lively musical performance. As usual, the touring company fielded a strong cast. The biggest hand went to Kirov Opera coloratura Larissa Yudina, a first-class Queen of the Night. She looked like a movie vixen, and her spitfire coloratura was brilliant, the high F's twinkling like stars. As her antagonist, the high priest Sarastro, Viacheslav Pochapsky offered a dignified presence and an impressive Slavic bass, although he seemed in a rush to get through his two solemn arias.Tenor Benjamin Brecher was a little pallid as Prince Tamino, but he sang with attractive tone and style. Soprano Amy Pfrimmer offered welcome passion in a part too often cooed rather than sung. Baritone Stefano De Peppo was a sparkplug Papageno, singing with intelligence and offering an earthy characterization more appealing than the usual prancing around. The chamber orchestra played quite well for conductor J. Ernest Green, who kept things moving briskly. Martin Otava, who directed Czech Opera Prague's delightful ''Die Fledermaus" earlier this season delivered the traditions with intelligence. "
BOSTON GLOBE - Richard Dyer - April 2006
BOSTON MAGIC FLUTE
"A genuinely delightful Zauberflote at the Emerson Majestic yesterday afternoon to a packed appreciative house. The simple, effective set allowed scenes to flow seamlessly, and the added special effects like thunder and lightning for the Queen's
appearances made for a lot of fun. Vocally things got off to a fine start with Benjamin Brecher as Tamino. The tenor made a big impression last season in Don Giovanni and it was fun to see him in a role far meatier than Ottavio. A fine actor, Brecher has a wonderfully expressive face along with a voice tailor made for Tamino. His opening scene caught the voice sounding beautiful giving a nice hint of what was to come, and really delivering the goods in "Dies Bildnis ist bezaubernd schoen" with style and elegance of phrasing. His Pamina, Veselina Vasileva (last season's beguiling Zerlina) was vocally radiant all afternoon and offered a touching. "Ach, ich fuhls" her high notes possessing a ravishing quality of both strength and girlishness; a most unique and individual sound. She is, as ever, a charming actress and played down the "little girl lost" aspect of the role which can make some Paminas (to me) less appealing. It is hard to believe that Stefano de Peppo is only now just taking on Papageno. His Birdcatcher was (predictably) the highlight of the show. We can partially blame Mozart for creating one of the most endearing characters in all of opera. Seriously, who does not love Papageno? Of late most singers I have heard have been of a considerably lighter vocal weight (not a complaint from me, just an observation) so it was nice to hear this character with a sound that has more meat on its bones, so to speak. Indeed, Stefano's bass-baritone, so resonant and softer grained than some of the more recent "buzzier" Papagenos contrasted brilliantly with his nervous and easy energy. Plus, that great smile and his ability to play right to the crowd guaranteed he'd have the audience in the palm of his hands all afternoon garnering him the biggest ovation of the afternoon. Suffice it to say, Stefano needs to keep this role. He is a natural in it! The contrast between Brecher's elegant Prince and De Peppo's hearty nature boy was brought out beautifully and naturally by both men. Right behind Papageno in the applause department was the Queen of theNight of Larissa Yudina. Miss Yudina executed the difficult fioriture of both arias with the kind of dazzling sparkle we always hope to hear in the role. The famous High F's were nailed both with fire and in tune. Yudina possesses a stunning beauty. "She was wicked HOT!" and her natural elegance made for a fine, fun turn as the Queen. Viacheslav Pochapsky, who only two nights ago was a marvelous Colline, here in Portland made even more of an impression as a memorable, resonant, and thrillingly booming Sarastro. (He also happens to be a hell of a Boris!). The strength of this production really is in its singing and interactions of its cast; the Three Ladies, (and the Three Spirits), Monastatos, were all capably sung and humorously acted. Something must be said here about costumes as all costumes for this show were marvelous (including, I think, the best dressed Three Ladies I have seen, and whose constant "voguing" conjured up a little Martha Graham). It was a joy to see so many children at the opera; all of whom seemed to be having as good a time as the grown ups!
OPERA NEWS FORUM - G. Paul Padillo - April 2006
"Sunday afternoon (April 2, 2006) a large Boston opera audience was treated to Mozart's interesting "The Magic Flute" at Emerson College's elegant Cutler Majestic Theater in Boston's theater district. It was a wonderful, colorful show, with performances that shone throughout and which made this "Flute" as much fun to view as hear."
Under the able leadership of Maestro J. Ernest Green, the orchestra delivered a smooth and laudable performance throughout the two-and-a half hours of the show. The orchestra's work was deservedly applauded at the end of the show. Well done! While the sets and lighting by Valentine Topencharov were basic, they were effective and at moments impressive and colorful, especially the scenes outside the Temple Doors, and during those moments when the backdrop and set were lit with stars. It is touches such as these that enhance a production and add to a scene's emotional appeal. As noted, things were done simply, but effectively. The story here is of an Egyptian Prince, Tamino, and his companion, the bird catcher, Papageno, who are in search of true love, but tested first by the gods. It's actually a parable of bravery, morality, sacrifice and inner strength, told through simple characters - often performed to the delight of children of all ages because of the humor inherent in the role of Papageno when done right - and here it was done very right, very smartly and with good humor by Italian bass-baritone Stefan De Peppo. Mr. De Peppo is one of those singers who actually became the character he played. He did this with ease, and acted as well as he sang throughout. He's animated, agile and involved with the audience, the sure sign of a star, and gifted with a resonant and clear voice that is so clearly audible and delivered so effortlessly that it rarely has to be pushed to be heard. Yesterday he was in top form and delivered an outstanding performance, earning many and loud bravos at the end of the show. Cast as his mate, Tamino, was American tenor Benjamin Brecher. Brecher is in large demand worldwide for the interpretation he brings to his bel canto roles and it was easy to see why yesterday afternoon. His lyric voice, in contrast to Brecher's, suggested exactly what his character calls for, a certain innocence that would be befitting a youth, not yet a man. Brecher had good stage presence and even when singing with someone like De Peppo who commands attention, managed to hold his own and do the part justice. A real standout in this performance, and one whom the audience seemed to enjoy was Russian basso Viacheslav Pochapsky, who was easily born for roles such as this. His worldly god was both regal and compassionate, and his voice captured the slow burn and depth of Sarastro, misunderstood at first as a "wicked demon" but later revered as a god of wisdom and compassion. Mr. Popchapsky's performance vocally and visually was a solid winner in every respect. And who would dare tell such lies about Sarastro, other than the conniving Queen of the Night, the "Konigin der Nacht" played deliciously and with wonderful regality by Russian soprano Larissa Yudina. Ms. Yudina captivated the audience with her staccato and clear "Der Holle Rache Kocht in Meinem Herzen" (The wrath of hell is burning in my bosom"). It's the song everyone waits for in this production and against which a soprano daring the role is going to be measured regardless of how well she sings the rest of the score. Ms. Yudina, met and surpassed every expectation and earned the loud applause she received from an appreciative audience. Equally impressive in their performances were Bulgarian soprano Veselina Vasileva, who sang the role of Pamina, Tamino's love interest and daughter of the Queen of the Night, and Bulgarian soprano Liubov Metodieva, who sang the role of Papagena and the Old Woman, both ironically enough being Papageno's love interest. Hats off must also go to tenor Gueorgui Dinev for his animated and lively performance as Monastatos, and The Three Ladies: Liubov Metodieva, Veselina Ponorska and Viara Zhelezova. It is superb casting with steady, reliable and strong voices that impresses so, and prompts the question: how do they do this, year after year, city after city night after night? Mozart Festival Opera can take a bow for this production and the earnest and noteworthy performance of a cast that rose to the level required and entertained and delighted this Sunday afternoon audience. "
OPERAONLINE.US- Paul Walkowski - March 2006
FLUTE celebrates the Magic of Mozart
"Most of the local celebrations of Mozart's 250th birthday have come to and end, but we finally got Mozart on a grand scale with the opera THE MAGIC FLUTE led with taut and consistent vigor by the American conductor J. Ernest Green. The composer gave the show's greatest fireworks to the Queen of the Night, and the petite soprano Svetlana Trifonova delivered. In her famous second-act aria, she impressed with a spray of accurate and piercing high notes that rang through the house. Tenor Vale Rideout was an ernest Tamino. His voice resonated through his chest with great force. As Papageno, the captivating birdman of opera, baritone Shon Sims was a lively presence." ALBANY TIMES UNION - Joseph Dalton - March 2006
"Mozart Festival Opera had the right idea for its production of THE MAGIC FLUTE...to indulge in exploring the whimsy of Mozart's score and fanciful libretto. The audience appreciated the approach and often laughed heartily at the modernized English super titles. All the leads were forceful in their projection and most had great diction. As Tamino, the Egyptian prince, Vale Rideout flew high in his many solos in the first act. Never once did he hold back but spun his sound with convincing directness. Veselina Vasileva surprised with how effortless she could sound with her big tones. Her sad and lovelorn acting persuasively balanced the presentation. Shon Sims had the built-in comedy role of Papageno, the bird catcher, but he chose to sing a true line rather than parody the part. It made his comic asides light and funnier. Svetlana Trifonova was a forceful, regal Queen of the Night and Viacheslav Pochapsky was a tall, stern presence as Sarastro. His gravely low bass notes supported long lines of dark tones. The production was visually charming with scenery that was highly stylized with a solid white light with gold and pink overtones. Costumes had a gray and purple palette with much glitter. What set the tone for the production was the orchestra's overture, led by conductor J. Ernest Green, who set buoyant and frothy tempos through out. " SCHENECTADY GAZETTE - Geraldine Freedman - March 2006
MAGIC FLUTE and an orchestra to boot
"A well-filled McCain Auditorium hosted a splendid Mozart Festival Opera touring production of DIE ZAUBERFLOTE Saturday evening. Our company conveyed not only the ambiguities of the story but most unambiguously the transcendent beauty of Mozart's dazzling score. Queen of the Night Svetlana Trifonova's brilliant coloratura soprano danced in starlight, soaring up to kill those stratospheric high F's. Tall, lean and fair, we could easily believe that ladies might indeed swoon over tenor Benjamin Brecher and he did have just the right bright and shining voice to convey Tamino's clean-hearted innocence and honest ardor. Amy Pfrimmer gave us a Pamina both capably sung and competently acted. As the merry bird catcher Papageno, Shon Sims was an audience favorite from start to finish, never overreaching or exaggerating. Liubov Metodeiva made a fetching Papagena. Sarastro was sung with steely eyed hauteur and barrel throated resonance by Viacheslav Pochapsky, A splendid evening."
MANHATTAN MERCURY NEWS - Ben Nyberg - March 2006
Mozart's mystery tour de force gets solid vocal treatment
"FLUTE is scene after scene of the most melodically varied music in the operatic repertoire. The company that puts its weight behind vocal ability will do well, and Mozart Festival Opera figured that into its production. Soprano Larissa Yudina, a principal of the Kirov Opera, brought an impressive coloratura to the taxing role of the Queen of the Night. In her artistic call for revenge "Der Holle Rache" Yudina vaulted all four high Fs in it and pulled "bravas" from an audience not known for emotional display. Viachelsav Pochapsky, as Sarastro demonstrated a smooth, full basso profundo. Texan, Shon Sims, in the Papageno role sings in a hearty style. His duet with Pamina "Bei Mannern" is the hallmark of a production on solid vocal ground. Benjamin Brecher as the hero Tamino matures vocally into an endearing prince. Amy Prfimmer sings a solidly sweet Pamina, a good vocal match for Brecher. Liubov Metodieva as Papageno commands a supple soprano voice. In his brief role, Gueorgui Dinev is a thoroughly wicked Monostatos. "
NAPLES DAILY NEWS - Harriet Heithaus - February 2006
A perversely stunning DON GIOVANNI
"The performance of Mozart's DON GIOVANNI Tuesday night at the University of NH, Johnson Theatre, was absolutely stunning. From the very first tap of the conductor's baton to the final scene in which Don Juan is dragged kicking and screaming into hell - the senses were working overtime. Lithuanian baritone, Vytautas Juozapaitis, (Don Giovanni) not only had the necessary voice, but he played the boastfully lecherous rake to great fanfare. Italian Bass baritone, Stefano de Peppo, (Leporello) played the perfect fool as the Don's trusted servant." PORTSMOUTH HERALD – February 2004
DON GIOVANNI Truly Majestic
"Tuesday's cast was first rate, led by the remarkable Lithuanian baritone, Vytas Juozapaitis, in the title role. The eight principals were united in the passion with which they filled every note, every word and every move. This was a lively, thoroughly believable and uniformly vocally generous presentation. Stage director, Giorgio Lalov, made sure no dramatic point was lost before Valentin Topencharov's handsome set."
BOSTON HERALD – T.J Medreck - October 2003
FIRE BREATHHING DON GIOVANNI
"Listening to DON GIOVANNI it's hard to believe any greater music has ever been written. Valentin Topencharov's set was most appealing, with balconies and loggias in front of a handsome view of Seville. What really carried the evening were the superb performers. From his entrance, in medias rape, Vytas Juozapaitis had a compelling presence as both a seductive and dangerous Don Juan. He had dash, swagger, a sense of humor, and a strong, lustrous voice. He's a good actor too. In short, he embodied the music. Italian bass-baritone, Stefano de Peppo (Leporello) is both a skillful comedian and an unusually musical one. De Peppo has excellent diction. His was an accomplished and delightful performance. The other male roles were also impressive. American tenor, Don Bernardini, has a voice of size, weight, and lyrical beauty and eloquently sustained the long lines of "Il mio tesoro." As the Commendatore, Bolshoi Opera bass Viacheslav Pochapsky, didn't need artificial amplification or echo effects to project his terrifying otherworldliness. This is a company you have to love.
BOSTON PHOENIX – Lloyd Schwartz – October 2004
"This DON GIOVANNI had heat, passion and total commitment from everyone involved under the dynamic, dramatic direction of conductor Metodi Matakiev. The Don was Lithuanian baritone Vytautas Juozapaitis, a highly physical, Douglas Fairbanks/Errol Flynn kind of Don. Tall, dark, quite handsome, a really sexy beast possessed of a bronze colored voice of power and some suavity, completely at ease on a stage, and a Don who actually ENJOYS to the hilt the life of a promiscuous hedonist. He was close to irresistible. Italian Stefano de Peppo was a good match for this Don with a well produced, nicely colored baritone. Don Bernardini sang a powerful, florid Don Ottavio. Hristo Sarafov portrayed Masetto with an unfailing instinct for where and when decadence in the nobility is about to pose a threat. His was a well sung and full, engaging characterization. The women made a strong grouping. Ludmila Vernerova, a Czech lyric soprano with high, clear and very cool voice displayed a well-developed coloratura technique and acting. She was a formidable presence. Korean - American Su-Jin Lee's impassioned Elvira is a big voice with a metallic thrust up top but the ability to float the crucial phrases. The petite, chestnut-haired Vesselina Vassileva played in favor of a sweet, wholesome, quality and genuine uncertainty as to how to handle this Don and survive, singing nicely throughout. There were more sparks in the right places on stage last night than the big houses are always able to deliver. And these voices are big and confident, with an excitement that is compelling. I had a very good time."
OPERA L – October 2003
DON GIOVANNI a rousing production
"Lithuanian baritone, Vytas Juozapaitis, brings presence and a warm, strong voice to the title role. When we first see him, hair flying in mid-rape, he looks like Johnny Depp in PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN. He works well with his lively servant Leporello sung by Stefano de Peppo, who steers clear of the clichés of operatic comedy. He sings and acts honestly, with a lithe body and a light bass baritone. Tenor, Don Bernardini, is a burlier and more masculine Don Ottavio than most, and he dispatches his second aria with panache, elegantly reeling off each of the long runs on a single breath. Russian bass, Viacheslav Pochapsky, thunders impressively as the Commendatore and as the avenging statue. Vesselina Vassileva is a spunky peasant Zerlina, full of charm and character. Su-Jin Lee is fervent, and musical as Donna Elvira. The light voiced Czech soprano, Ludmila Vernerova, clicks off the most difficult measures in Donna Anna's second aria with clockwork coloratura precision and supplies some interesting musical detail elsewhere. Giorgio Lalov's direction is detailed and the chorus created individual personalities instead of simply filing on and off. One has heard performances that weren't half as much fun or half as good." BOSTON GLOBE – Richard Dyer – October 2003
Bravo Concerts opens with excellent performance of Mozart classic
"An excellent performance of this classic (DON GIOVANNI) was given Sunday at the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium. Central to the drama were the excellent baritones, Vytautas Juozapaitis (Don Giovanni) and Stefano de Peppo, (Leporello). Both men are excellent singers and actors who made believable the Don's continuous, very successful skirt-chasing and the servant's loyalty to a master he does not always admire. The Don's difficult role never seemed to tax Juozapaitis' excellent dramatic voice. Throughout the opera listeners were charmed by his great expressive range as he moved with ease from comic exchanges with Leporello to tender love songs. The talented sopranos in the cast were a delight all evening. Ludmila Vernerova, (Donna Anna) showed her skills as a Mozartian dramatic soprano. Su-Jin Lee, as Donna Elvira, revealed a warm, rich soprano. Vesselina Vassileva, (Zerlina) has a lyric voice capable of handling the Mozart coloratura as well as the lyricism of her tender love arias. Her acting, too, was especially fine. The sets were impressive and the orchestra was excellent, never covering the singers, even in the most tender vocal moments." ASHEVILLE CITIZEN TIMES – October 2003
Opera at the Touhill is a treat
"It was opera, professionally produced opera, with attractive sets and costumes and an international cast of performers. And we are suitably grateful for the production of Mozart's DON GIOVANNI. Stefano de Peppo's Leporello stole the show every time he stepped onto the stage, both for his easy humor and for his luscious bass-baritone voice and his dark good looks. In he title role, Vytas Juozapaitis, made an oily seducer. He sang with finesse and offered one of the best characterizations of the evening. Vesselina Vassileva's Zerlina had charm, presence and a clear, lovely soprano. Tenor, Gabriel Gonzales has a splendid, ringing voice. Bass, Viacheslav Pochapsky, made a good impression in the brief role of Commendatore. Conductor, Matakiev kept things moving and kept them musical."
ST. LOUIS DISPATCH – November 2003
"With a full orchestra and singers that combined good looks with acting skills, this was perhaps the best performance in the opera series at New London’s Garde Arts Center, featuring scintillating performances, well-timed acting, and beautiful scenery. All of the singers had an excellent rapport with the audience and their movement was truly extraordinary for the operatic medium." THE DAY – February 2004
MOZART Company proves opera can be fun
"Baritone Vytautas Juozapaitis was perfectly full of himself as Don Giovanni. His hilarious interactions with sidekick Leporello, played by the animated bass-baritone Stefano de Peppo were the highlights of the show. Soprano Steffanie Pearce was wonderful as the mourning Donna Anna and tenor Benjamin Brecher was a good compliment as her protector, Don Ottavio. Soprano Veselina Vasileva as the naive Zerlina and baritone Hristo Sarafov as her clueless husband Masetto had great chemistry. The set was lovely and the costumes were beautiful. Bravo to Mozart Festival Opera for a fun evening of opera."
THE STAR PRESS – November 2004
DON GIOVANNI SHOWCASES SINGERS
"Mozart Festival Opera brought a fine DON GIOVANNI to the McCallum Theater. Most noteworthy was Vytautas Juozapaitis in the title role. He nailed the role with his well projected baritone. The capacity audience seemed to especially cotton to Vladimir Shvets as Leporello with his sharp comic instincts. Dimiter Stantchev's imposing bass was ideal as the ghost of the vanquished father as he pulled Giovanni to hell amid fire and smoke. Equally robust was soprano Brenda Harris (Metropolitan Opera) as Donna Elvira." THE DESERT SUN – November 2004
A polished DON GIOVANNI graces the Phil Stage
"Mozart's divine spark was ignited several times Friday night at the Philharmonic Center for the Arts. The MOZART FESTIVAL OPERA brought a full orchestra and chorus and a cast that impressed local opera buffs with their version of DON GIOVANNI. Young Lithuanian baritone Vytautas Juozapaitis was well cast as the suave serial seducer with his aristocratic good looks and deep voice. Most women would find him charismatic if not irresistible. From the first moments it became evident that this company, with attractive sets and costumes, is miles ahead of most touring troupes. Theatrically and musically gratifying were the other cast members, all with international experience." NAPLES DAILY NEWS – Corrine Dunn – November 2003
"Mozart Festival Opera lived up to its name with a fine production of DON GIOVANNI Wednesday night at Proctor's Theatre. The love deceit and above all, the fine music were well represented. Beautiful gowns...both set and costumes were fresh and in good shape. A special treat was the Sofia Symphony Orchestra, by far the best opera orchestra heard at Proctor's in recent seasons." ALBANY TIMES UNION – March 2005
International Cast Sings Beautiful GIOVANNI
"Mozart Festival Opera presented a richly mounted and beautifully sung performance of DON GIOVANNI at Proctor's Theater Wednesday night. The title role was taken by baritone Vytautas Juozapaitis, a great presence who was terrific both vocally and dramatically." SCHENECTADY GAZETTE – March 2005
Opera is good fit at Hippodrome Theater
"The elegantly regilded Hippodrome Theatre could be mistaken for an old-world opera house. On Wednesday night for three hours that's exactly what it was. The experience certainly was positive enough to make me want to hear more operatic workouts at the Hippodrome. This fully staged DON GIOVANNI boasted an agile, true ensemble cast that carried out comic moments with particular aplomb. Everybody onstage demonstrated an appreciation for the expressive richness of Mozart's writing and considerable determination to add nuance to their phrasing. Conductor J. Ernest Green brought an effective sweep to the score. Giorgio Lalov's staging kept things animated." BALTIMORE SUN – Tim Smith - January 2005
MOZART WOULD HAVE APPROVED
"The Mozart Festival Opera's production of DON GIOVANNI made the three hours fly. The performamce scored high on both singing and acting, with a good live orchestra. A vivacious Leporello was sung by Stefano de Peppo. He has a clear, carrying baritone. The miming between him and Vytautas Juozapaitis as Don Giovanni was great physical comedy that had the audience laughing out loud. Juozapaitis possessed the voice, swagger and stage presence to match and dominate Leporello, and his costumes are among the best I've seen. This production reminds me of the "Flashman" novels. I think Mozart would have approved."
PORTLAND PRESS HERALD – Christopher Hyde – March 2005
MOZART FESTIVAL OPERA TAKES PORTLAND BY STORM
"Mozart Festival Opera brought its glorious production of DON GIOVANNI to Portland, Me, yesterday in a well attended, rapturously received performance that had the audience rising and cheering, unwilling to let the evening end."
OPERA L – G. Paul Padillo – March 2005
FINE NOZZE IN NEW LONDON
"Mozart Festival Opera presented a sprightly, very well sung and staged NOZZE DI FIGARO at the Garde Arts Center in New London, CT last night. It was one of the best offerings yet of the fine Garde Arts Opera Series. One of the liveliest NOZZE's in my experience, aided by the always excellent, clearly motivated stage direction of Giorgio Lalov. Stefano de Peppo's Figaro stood out for superb characterization and fine vocalism. Viacheslav Pochapsky of the Bolshoi Opera thrilled me as Boris Godounov. His Bartolo was richly sung and acted with vigor. Topencharov's sets and costumes evoked the 18th century very well. We were fortunate to have this fine NOZZE in New London." OPERA L – John Deredita – March 2005
A STRONG ENSEMBLE CAST POWERS FIGARO AT THE GARDE
“Mozart Festival Opera brought LE NOZZE DI FIGARO to the Garde Arts Center in New London, a performance that was very fine indeed; laugh out loud funny with vivid characterizations and endlessly tuneful. The cast was both vocally strong enough to sustain the musical complexities and with sufficient stagecraft to keep the nearly sold-out Garde laughing. The string of ensembles that power the opera were full of energy and freshness with acting and vocal delights merging time and time again. Sets were smartly done with none of the wear and tear that often marks road productions." THE DAY – March 2005
Comments from Executive Director FCCJ Artist Series
About Mozart Festival Opera: DON GIOVANNI
Jacksonville, FL - November 2006
"Jenny, the show was fabulous! A standing ovation!! Great voices, good actors & the man who played the Giovanni role was superb. Set, lights, special effects, staging, costumes - all were great. My favorite up to now has been your CARMEN - I thought the woman who played Carmen was wonderful, but this DON GIOVANNI was the complete package!! OK - so now I have two favorites!! We are looking forward to Rigoletto."
Milton A. Russos
Executive Director, FCCJ Artist Series
Mozart's 'Don Giovanni' triumphs
“Bad boys have long fascinated audiences as well as storytellers, whatever the medium. Such rebels, often without causes beyond self-gratification, have been at the center of much of contemporary popular culture. One of the paradigms for such dramatized morality tales is Mozart's magnificent "Don Giovanni," whose musical and theatrical turns evoked awe and laughter and terror from the more that 1,500 music fans who on Saturday night flocked to Lawrence's Lied Center for the Mozart Festival Opera production. The libertine is thoroughly disreputable. Nonetheless, we look on in fascination because of his devilish smile, dashing good looks, ready wit, and the audacity of his hyper-inflated ego. If you can imagine a young Jack Nicholson with mustache, cape and a flair for sword play, you've got it. Lithuanian baritone Vytautas Juozapaitis gave the Don appropriate swagger and voice. He also brought a comic twist that gave the roué a touch of the trickster. Stepping out of character for a second in the midst of a briskly paced recitative, he paused, turned, and looked up at the supertitled English translation as if to check his lines. It was a joke shared by all. The pleasure of performing, even in the opera's most dramatic moments, was evident. So, too, was the troupe's love for and understanding of Mozart's genius. Hitting just the right musical as well as dramatic notes were Adina Aaron (Donna Anna), Hallie Neill ((Donna Elvira), Viara Zhelezova (Zerlina), Stefano De Peppo (Leporello), Benjamin Brecher (Don Ottavio), Hristo Sarafov (Masetto), and Viacheslav Pochapsky (Commendatore).
Kudos also go to maestro Krassimir Topolov and the 42 European musicians comprising the Mozart Festival Opera Orchestra whose playing helped lift the efforts of the singers to transcendent heights.” Chuck Berg – TOPEKA CAPITAL JOURNAL – February 2007
Note from conductor STEVEN WHITE about
Mozart Festival Opera: NOZZE DI FIGARO
Naples Philharmonic Center - March 2007:
"Last night was really a great experience! Giorgio is a genius, with nerves of steel! I was thrilled with everyone! It's amazing what people can do when they really focus and concentrate. Congratulations! Please let me know if I can help you in the future. Thanks for everything!”
Steven White, Artistic Director
(Conductor for New York City Opera)
Note from Bob Simon, formerly of OPERA NORTH
Tampa, FL – March 2007
I just wanted to say hello and tell you how much I enjoyed the Mozart Festival Opera's "Don Giovanni," which I saw this afternoon. (I now live in Tampa.) It was a pleasure to see and hear one of your companies after being involved in just the supertitles. I hope all the performances are met with the same enthusiasm that today's Tampa audience showed.
FROM GM of Wilmington Concert Ass Wilmington, NC Feb. 2009 NOZZE DI FIGARO
I hope by now your cousin will have told you how well *Figaro* was received last night. Lovely voices, great set and costumes, very good orchestra. This is a longer opera than our audiences are used to but they'd all stayed to the end, smiling and applauding. A big success. Thank you.”
GM Wilimgton Concert Ass.
NOZZE IN NEW LONDON
“The Garde Arts Center of New London, Connecticut, scored again last night, Thursday 26 February, with a spirited, musically and linguistically idiomatic NOZZE DI FIGARO presented by Mozart Festival Opera (an offshoot of Teatro Lirico d"Europa). The largely Bulgarian cast pronounced Italian accurately and easily and vocalized with authentic Mozartean style. And that style was evident in the masterful conducting of Bulgarian maestro Krassimir Topolov and the playing of his Sofia Symphony Orchestra, which has improved for TLE and MFO this season. Laurie noticed (only) a couple of disjunctive instances when pit and stage were out of sync, but in general, from the swiftly paced overture through the final ensemble, the orchestra stayed together and supported the comedy, the desire, and the heartache of this great opera. Harpsichordist Ivaylo Ivanov played in sprightly fashion.
The cast was more than worthy of Mozart's vocal and thespian demands. I agreed with Laurie that the three female leads excelled. Russian Olga Chernisheva sang beautifully and acted the aristocrat with ease. Her moving, vocally colored "Dove sono" elicited bravos from me and other members of the Garde's large, appreciative audience. Laurie especially liked Snejana Dramcheva's Susanna, who sang a wondrous "Deh vieni, non tardar" with lovely tone and just the right dramatic combination of her love for Figaro and her pretense of waiting for the Count in order to rile Figaro. Dramcheva held up very well under the rigors of this long role. Viara Zhelezova sang Cherubino's two arias with feeling and effectively conveyed the character of the adolescent boy. His Barbarina, Ivanova, sang her brief role with fine tone, but was bigger and older than the slim girl we usually see. Petrova's Marcellina finely captured both Susanna's rival and Figaro's ultimately loving mother.
The male star for me was Bobick. His round, full voice was perfect for the third act duet "Crudel! perché finora", and the great aria that follows, "Vedrò, mentre io sospiro." One really believed his apology at the end. He is handsome and cut an elegant figure as the Count.. Bass-baritone Conde sang pretty well as Figaro, though without so fine a tone as his colleagues. He looked the part and acted its varied moods very well.
Tenor Dinev sang the character parts of Basilio and Curzio with aplomb, and that's a word that can also characterize the excellent actor Sarafov's Antonio. There wasn't a weak link in the whole cast. Giorgio Lalov always gets high marks from me for his stage direction for TLE and MFO, and last night he earned them again. Expression and movement were lively, and we were immersed in the Almaviva-Figaro world throughout. The unit set by Valentin Topencharov had the feel of a palace and convenient doors at the back and openings at both sides. His costumes were also effective and evocative of the eighteenth century. Lighting by Georgui Bajukliev was always appropriate. This NOZZE ended the Garde's '08-'09 Opera Series with a flourish.“
OPERA L John Deredita Feb. 2009
Note from Director of Programming
Naples Philharmonic Center
About NOZZE DI FIGARO – March 2007:
“Dear Jenny & Giorgio,
Thank you so much for the Marriage of Figaro. Every aspect of this performance was truly outstanding as was proven by the spontaneous standing ovation that went on for 4 curtain calls.
The soloists were no less than magnificent. The sets were glorious and the staging and acting superb. We could not have asked for a more flawless performance. We can't wait for Rigoletto next week.
Naomi Buck, Director - Production/Programming
Philharmonic Center for the Arts
A very fine DON GIOVANNI at the Garde Arts Center in New
London, CT last Friday night 23 October. This might have been
the best Mozart Festival Opera/Teatro Lirico d'Europa offering of all the many that we've heard. As usual, Giorgio Lalov's stage direction gave us true characters and, in the case of DON G, a compelling dramma giocoso. Valentin Topencharov's unit set with facades of eighteenth-century buildings at each side connected by an arch worked for all scenes, including the last, where Topencharov's lighting turned red (with steam/smoke) to foreshadow hell when the Commendatore appeared at Don G's dinner.
Stefano De Peppo sang the title role with rich tone and real expressiveness. His well-paced "Fin ch'han del vino" and lyrical "Deh vieni alla finestra" were highlights of the evening. This handsome singer embodied the aristocratic seducer perfectly.
The three women were in command of their roles. Puerto Rican soprano Meliangee Pérez had the power and agility for Donna Anna. Russian soprano, Elena Razgylyaeva's beautiful tone was spot-on for Elvira. She was so lovely that I wondered why the Don didn't leave his ways and stick with her. Bulgarian mezzo Viara Zhelezova sang Zerlina with real flair--both "Batti, batti" and "Vedrai, carino" were moving--and acted throughout with comedic spirit.
Hristo Sarafov, whom we've heard in many roles with this company, acted and sang Leporello convincingly. David Adam’s Don Ottavio was more of a mensch than one or two others I've seen. His "Il mio tesoro" navigated the fioritura pretty well. I hope that New York City Opera gives us as good a DON GIOVANNI as this one on 8 November. Mozart Lyric Opera sets a high level.
OPERA L John Deredita Oct. 2009
Hello Jenny -
What a truly awesome and splendid performance of Don Giovanni you provided Opera New Hampshire last night! Even our hardest "critics" came to me at intermission and described it as flawless, wonderful voices, characters working with and off of each other beautifully...Thanks again for your continual wonderful performances. Next up: Rigoletto!
President, Board of Directors
Opera New Hampshire
Palace Theatre, Manchester, NH
MOZART FESTIVAL OPERA LE NOZZE DI FIGARO
Jenny, everything went well! Thanks for providing us with a great company and performance.
Assistant Director/Account Executive
University Concert Series
NOZZE DI FIGARO – Wilkes Barre, PA – Mar. 2010
The opera and your cast were all very good! We saw more young people this year, which is a trend I hope continues, as we need to bring new people to
the Opera. Thanks for all your help…
Director of Programming
F.M. Kirby Center, Wilkes Barre, PA
Marshall Artists Series presents Mozart's 'Don Giovanni'
March 16, 2010 @ 12:00 AM The Herald-Dispatch
“HUNTINGTON -- They say the show must go on, and the Marshall Artists Series presentation of Mozart's "Don Giovanni" did just that after a brief delay
caused by a power outage Monday evening.The performance, which was scheduled to begin at 8 p.m., was delayed when power went out just before 7 p.m. But devoted Marshall Artists Series ticket holders and opera fans flooded 4th Avenue sidewalks and waited in the dark, cheering when the lights came on
shortly after 8 p.m. The patrons had good reason to be thrilled that the
show went on. "Don Giovanni" is often hailed as the greatest of all operas,
and it is the first time in more than 40 years that it has been performed in
Huntington, according to Penny Watkins, executive director of the Marshall Artists Series. About 1,200 people attended the two-act opera, which is
based on the true-life story of the aristocratic, yet wicked and debauched
Don Juan of Seville. The opera was performed by the Mozart Festival Opera
company, which made its U.S. debut in 2003. The title character of Don
Giovanni was portrayed by Stefano De Peppo.”
Don Giovanni – Newberry Opera House, SC – March 2010
“It was fabulous -- I had people come up to me and say they could not believe this was happening in SC. Thanks! -- I can't wait for TOSCA”
NEWBERRY OPERA HOUSE, NEWBERRY, SC
Don Giovanni – Jacksonville, FL – Mar. 2010
"I and two of my staff saw the production and felt that it was very well done! Maybe one of the finest that you have sent our way. I spoke to several of our patrons at intermission who
also felt the same way – the consensus was all the leads had strong voices.
I thought the leads were very animated and this is a show that requires good
comedic acting as well as the singing. Stefano was a real treat for the pre-performance chat. We had over a 130 for his presentation & had to bring in more chairs. They loved him – what a treat. Thank you for arranging this
Milton A. Russos
The Artist Series, Broadway in Jacksonville - Presented by Florida State College