In his final scenes, "Kwiecien's performance shifted from bravado and cockiness to chilling ferocity," said Ward. "As Giovanni's last moments approached, [he] submerged himself in his character as few opera singers do. His writhing refusal to bend to the force of good and his descent into hell was electrifying."
Not to forget what seems to be a requirement for baritone stardom these days, our critic reports that Kwiecien "showed he amply qualifies for membership in the barihunks society with bare-chested, but robe-draped, strutting."
Kwiecien was by no means alone in doing exemplary work in Houston's Don Giovanni (photos of which are below). As Donna Elvira, "soprano Ana Mar‹a Mart‹nez found a special well of sweet-hearted sympathy for Donna Anna," wrote Ward, "and a much deeper well of feelings for her own predicament in her deeply moving exploration of Elvira's torn emotions in Act II. "Soprano Alexandra Deshorties [as Donna Anna] showed the most extreme, and convincing, range of emotions as she recounted to her lover Don Ottavio the terrible night when her father was killed. And throughout, bass Oren Gradus handled Leporello's complex love/hate relationship with Giovanni with smooth tone and excellent acting.
"Others in the cast included mezzo-soprano Fiona Murphy (a light but charming Zerlina), baritone Ryan McKinny (a rustic, well-sung Masetto), tenor Garrett Sorenson (Don Ottavio, sensitive and only sensible-sounding), and bass Raymond Aceto (stenorian as the Commendatore)."
HGO music director Patrick Summers conducted a "well-paced performance," and director Harry Silverstein seems to have done a fine job of revivifying the 20-year-old HGO staging by G‹ran Jarvefelt: Ward found that he " drew out rich characterizations from the cast. Every gesture had meaning but each meaning was carefully folded into the much larger flow."
Houston Grand Opera's production of Mozart's Don Giovanni, directed by Harry Silverstein and conducted by Patrick Summers, receives four further performances — tonight and November 5, 9 and 11 — at the Wortham Theater Center in downtown Houston. Information and tickets are available at www.houstongrandopera.com.
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Below, from top to bottom and left to right (all photos by Brett Coomer):
Don Giovanni (Mariusz Kwiecien) mortally wounds the Commendatore (Raymond Aceto);
Don Ottavio (Garrett Soresnson) comforts his fianc_e Donna Anna (Alexandra Deshorties) after the murder of her father;
Don Giovanni (Mariusz Kwiecien) seduces Donna Anna (Alexandra Deshorties);
Donna Elvira (Ana Mar‹a Mart‹nez) tries to keep Don Giovanni (Mariusz Kwiecien) from seducing Zerlina;
the statue of the Commendatore (Raymond Aceto) accepts Don Giovanni's dinner invitation;
a jealous Masetto (Ryan McKinny) is restrained by villagers;
Don Giovanni (Mariusz Kwiecien, at left) welcomes the disguised Donna Elvira, Don Ottavio and Donna Anna to his palace;
the statue of the Commendatore (Raymond Aceto, right) gives Don Giovanni (Mariusz Kwiecien) one last chance to repent;
Don Giovanni (Mariusz Kwiecien) descends into hell.