Portland Opera invited Culturephile (as part of a motley crew of journalists, bloggers, and comic artists) to tweet (and, for the artists, draw) during a dress rehearsal of the company’s new show, Don Giovanni, last night. Fueled by Opera-provided candy bars and tiny plastic bottles of wine, we digitally twittered through the three-plus hours of Mozart’s (and librettist da Ponte’s) 1787 opera about the legendary libertine (perhaps better known by his Spanish name, Don Juan), which Portland Opera has staged based on New York City Opera’s somewhat modernized, highly minimalist, and, most of all, sexed-up 2009 production. Here, we revisit our on-the-spot reactions to offer a sneak peek of Don Giovanni in 140-character glimpses.
As Mozart's overture plays, the cast sits in 2 straight rows beneath a neon cross. But Don G sits to the side, a man apart.
The set, BTW, is nothing but those chairs, that cross, & some hanging lights. The sparse staging debuted in NY in '09 to raves. [Funny/sad story: The set was actually manufactured in Portland, transported to New York for the 2009 production, and shipped back here for this show. After Don Giovanni closes, New York City Opera, as part of its efforts to reduce storage costs, has asked Portland Opera to simply liquidate the set. So, in a curious twist of fate, the set was born here and will die here.]
After the Commendatore comes upon Don G doing it w/ his daughter, Don G bashes in his head. This ain't yr mama's opera. [Smeared blood at the spot on the set wall where Don Giovanni strikes the Commendatore’s head remains there for the entire show—right below the big neon cross.]
Don G's making a pass at a woman when his servant checks his little black book: She's among the 1003 (!) already logged there. [Twitterer @panos_four later corrected us: “1003 just in Spain, 91 in Turkey, 640 in Italy, 230 in Germany…”]
In this production, Don G is depicted more psychoanalytically—as libido embodied, for good & evil.
Don G must be setting some kind of record for number of copped feels here. Guy's got the busiest hands in opera.
At Act 1's end, Don G is blissfully partying w/ "country girls"--but his chickens (& chicks) are coming home to roost...
Don G on women: "To be faithful to one is to be cruel to all others." Fair.
As Act 2 begins, the don dons...not much: He & his servant split the pieces of a suit between them. [Jason Hardy, the bass singer who plays Leporello, Don Giovanni’s servant, told us backstage before the show that he had been hitting the weights in preparation for his partial nudity.]
Stefania Dovhan (Donna Anna, the Commendatore's daughter) is the most expressive, strongest vocalist in this (v. strong) cast. [Read our interview with Dovhan, in which the soprano sounds off about “the right amount of sex” in opera, her “freakish” vocal cords, and the dangers of Portland’s many breweries.]
Well...Jonathan Boyd (Don Ottavio, Anna's fiance), has pretty good pipes, too–especially when he sings from astride a coffin.
In add'n to, y'know, singing opera, Jason Hardy (Don G's servant) just balanced a chair on his chin. What have we done lately?
The Commendatore (his blood still smeared on the wall) rises from the grave for Don G's repentance--just in time for Halloween.
Spoiler alert: In this fundamentally moralistic tale, Don G gets dragged to hell. Which hath no fury like 1,003 women scorned. [True, Don Giovanni’s moralism doesn’t really hold up in the postmodern era. But Portland Opera’s sexy and stylish staging, along with excellent performances all around, make the show well worth seeing.]
Portland Opera’s Don Giovanni opens at Keller Auditorium Friday and runs through November 10. For showtimes, ticket prices, and other information, visit the opera’s website.
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