Sunday, July 25, 2010

Don Giovaaaaaaaani

Went (alone) to Don Giovanni last night. It was delightful and creepy. Delightfully creepy. I got there early enough to catch most of the pre-performance talk, which was interesting. They talked about Mozart writing it, and the first performances, and also of certain things to listen for in the music. There was enough time after that ended to browse the gift shop, where I was entranced by the display of marcasite (things like this) and rhinestones. I was wearing my brown ensemble, with my hair twisted up into a bun to help provide relief from the 98 degree temp, (that's over 36c if you speak metric) and there in the crowded case I saw it - the perfect barrette. I mean, it perfectly matched my jewelry - I was wearing these earrings with this brown necklace - AND it sparkled to me. I mean that in the active sense. It sparkled, "You want me, you need me, I need to live in your hair" and the next thing I knew I was asking to see it and handing over my credit card. It's like the spirit of Don Giovanni inhabited the thing for a moment. I unbunned my hair and wore it right away. This photo doesn't do it justice, as I took it with my phone on my lap during intermission.

On to the performance itself. I loved it!!! During the overture Don Giovanni was on stage with some dancers. They were frozen in position in beige bodysuits that covered everything, including their faces. He grabbed each one in turn, did a ballet-style hug/kiss/whatever (it varied) and they crumpled to the floor. Then Leporello, his unwilling assistant, dragged them into a pile. Meanwhile women's names were projected onto a scrim, which is like a thin curtain. All the names, and then the anonymous dancers - it really brought across the idea that he'd seduce anyone, didn't matter what they looked like - just so long as they were female. That point is explicitly stated later in the opera. It also showed the almost magical charm he had over the women. They couldn't say no, even though it led to heartbreak and in some cases, ruin.

So the plot is pretty well known, but here is the quick version: The Don, in a mask, tries to seduce/rape Donna Anna. Her father comes, DG kills him. Donna Anna is engaged to Don Ottavio. He vows vengeance for her, etc. Then Donna Elvira comes along looking for D.G. because he wham-bam-thank-you-ma'amed her and left her heartbroken. Leporello tells her she wasn't the first and she won't be the last, then goes on to sing about how he has kept track of D.G.'s conquests. The projected names come up again and also women come onto the stage with long, wide cloth strips of names. He wraps her up in the cloths, ending with one with just her name on it. At first I was like, Ok, this is hokey, but then I really liked it. The more she learned about DG, the more cloth she was wrapped in, until her name was added to the top of the pile and she finally got the point.

Next we see Zerlina and Masetto coming on their way to their wedding. DG of course wants Zerlina. He gets Lep to lure Masetto and the gang away and tries to seduce Zerlina. Here we have the duet, La ci darem la mano. And we have the Don's magic touch. He snaps his fingers and a scrim descends as his charm descends upon Zerlina. She watches it come down with wonder - she is under his spell. There's a rainbow on the scrim - like his charm has totally blinded her to reality. She's ready to run off to never-never land with him until the scorned Donna Elvira shows up to prevent it. She snaps her fingers and breaks the spell, causing the rainbow to vanish. Then of course Masetto gets jealous, Zerlina sings Batti Batti, all is well. Eventually we're at a party where, according to the pre-show lecture, there's 3 point time melody, then a 2 point, then a 1, all under each other. I listened but couldn't pick it out.

Intermission meant, of course, a quick trip to the ladies room and then a seat upgrade. Before intermission, I was in the 2nd to last row in the balcony, a $35 ticket:

After intermission, I was in the front row of the balcony, in a $110 seat:

That seat was not worth $110 but it definitely was an upgrade - it was a single plush chair with its own arms, lots of leg room and of course the unobstructed view. It was also an upgrade in the sense that I no longer had these annoying people in the row behind me commenting on the obvious and banging their knees into my seat every 30 seconds. I was ready to relax and enjoy...

...Act 2. In pure operatic fashion, Don G and Leporello switched hats and capes and fooled everyone into thinking they were each other. So of course Leporello almost gets killed by the outraged gang (Donna Anna, Don Ottavio, Donna Elvira, Masetto and Zerlina) because they all thought he was Don G. Meanwhile DG is out trying to seduce Donna Elvira's maid. Other stuff happens too but you get the idea. So eventually DG and L are on their way home when they come across a statue of Donna Anna's father. L is totally creeped out but DG is like, "Invite him to dinner, go ahead," thinking it's a great joke. Then later he's "entertaining" a group of women when the statue takes him up on his offer. Everyone is freaked out and they run out, screaming. The scrim comes down and we see a GIANT projection of the dead guy's face, grey hair blowing back in the wind, mouth opening and closing as if he were laughing in slow motion, while we hear him singing about how he's going to punish DG for being such a scoundrel. The anonymous dancers from the overture come back and are all writhing around while strobe lights flash, there might have been smoke or it might have been part of the projection, and the music was creepy and fantastic. It was awesome. It created great tension and I was totally drawn in and frightened. They drag him down to hell and then the rest of the characters come out to tell what they did after that. They sing how wonderful it is that Don Giovanni is gone forever. Meanwhile, there's this clunk as a modern suitcase flies onto the stage, then DG comes out in modern day dress. They see him and are totally confused, but they don't stop singing. He snaps his fingers a la Fonzie and two women in cocktail dresses come to him. Like, sure, go ahead and sing your relief that he's gone... but... he's never gone...

On my way out I heard a couple people complaining that they thought the end was overdone. I disagree. I love the way they incorporated the projections and the strobe lighting to make it totally creepy. It fit with the music perfectly! And the modern Don G added a nice touch.

The singers were all great. Zerlina was so cute. Don G of course oozed charisma. But in my opinion the woman who sang Donna Elvira stole the show. Everyone had beautiful voices but hers had that extra something, something in the timbre, combined with her acting and her general stage presence, that set her apart from the others. I wasn't the only one who thought so - the audience's cheering rose in pitch during her curtain call.

So what's next? The opera company is putting on two other operas this summer - Faust and Don Pasquale. But ticket prices have gone up and the $15 standing room tickets no longer exist, so we'll have to wait and see. There were lots of empty seats last night, so I wonder if the price increase has helped or hurt them?

1 comment:

Susan said...

Since writing this I have read the director's notes in the program and I'm happy to say I was spot on with some of my observations. Does that make me smart, or was it blazingly obvious to everyone? I think I'll just pretend I'm smart, this time around.