Let's preface this whole thing by saying that I'm not accustomed to attending performances in Miami where a significant percentage of female audience members are wearing fur coats. That said, I imagine that for other opera novices, Don Giovanni is a good one to cut your teeth on. It's got sex by the pound, gun and knife fights, and enough drama to make The Real Housewives of Miami look sedate. Written by Mozart and Italian librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte and first performed in 1787, the content of the show is still completely relatable today, and I know that because I was diligent about reading the subtitles projected above the stage (in English and Spanish).
The opera follows Don Giovanni (David Pittsinger), a remorseless
womanizer, as he pursues conquest after conquest,
sometimes going as far as to wear a mask or impersonate other
people if it helps. He's unfazed by the boat loads of people he hurts along
the way. In one scene, he announces nonchalantly that chasing women is
more vital than consuming air or food.
Don Giovanni gets a bit
reckless, however, when he climbs into Il Commendatore's daughter's
window. The rather, uh, direct pass is not received well, and Il
Commendatore and Giovanni fight in a nasty duel that leaves the former dead. The rest of the story is essentially about Donna Anna, the
Commendatore's daughter, seeking to avenge her father's death. As Don
Giovanni continues to add to his impressive tally of one night stands,
Donna Anna acquires more and more sympathizers eager to see the Don go
Pittsinger portrays Don Giovanni pretty
perfectly. Clad in absurd leather pants, sometimes donning sunglasses to
add to his sleazy-cool factor, Pittsinger's overblown confidence,
peacock poses, and macho, yet incredible, voice add a bit of
'90s David Hasselhof flair to this classic Italian opera. He and his
servant, Leporello (Tom Corbeil) have a bit of a Michael Scott/Dwight
Schrute thing going on; Don Giovanni keeps making bad moves, Leporello
goofily stumbles along, helping to facilitate the stupidity. Corbeil's
exaggerated, dorky facial expressions and rather hipster sharply angled
haircut make him fun to look at while he sings about the thousands of
women Don Giovanni has slept with (Leporello apparently keeps a precise
tally of the women in each country - 1003 in Spain alone!).
Jarman is outstanding in her portrayal of the pathetically obsessed
jilted ex-lover, Donna Elvira. I think it's an added modernization that
Jarman carries a baby doll as she sings about how ashamed she is about
Don Giovanni loving and leaving her, insinuating that DG is the father,
but I could be wrong. It seems a little Maury Povich for the 18th
century, but hell, Mozart was ahead of his time!
favorite was Jonathan G. Michie, who
plays Masetto, the jealous husband of Zerlina (Brittany Ann Renee
Robinson), one of Don Giovanni's conquests. Grabbing his bride
desperately by the wrist, begging frantically for her not to allow
herself to be alone with "the Don" (I know these things are all part
of the script, but the way Michie conveys them was so genuine) the reality of his performance cut through the fact that he was singing the entire time and that the words were in Italian. Now that's a tall order.
notable performances: Jacquelyn Wagner, who plays Donna Anna, whose
songbird voice is crystal clear and powerful, and Morris Robinson, Il
Commendatore, with a rich booming voice and a physique that is just as
immense! (Spoiler alert! But c'mon, the story is hundreds of years
old...) When he comes back from the dead to try to force Don Giovanni to
repent, his form alone is freaking frightening, never mind the eerie
face paint, dark robes and dry ice smoke!
beautiful story with equal parts drama, humor, and moral 'suasion, all
portrayed by exquisite performers both on stage and in the orchestra
pit, Don Giovanni is worth attending if you can swing it.
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at the Ziff Ballet and Opera House, 1300 Biscayne Boulevard, are on
select days from April 22nd through May 14th. Go to the Florida Grand
Opera website or call 800-741-1010.