Opera Colorado ends its season with a triumph in Don Giovanni, Mozart’s (sometimes) comic opera with libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House in Denver.
In a rare coincidence, the entire cast makes its debut with the company, and each gives an exceptional performance. There is not a weak link in any of the characters. Vocally, musically and dramatically, this opera is near perfection. Mozart must be smiling.
The cast includes Christopher Magiera as Don Giovanni, Ellie Dehn as Donna Anna, Melody Moore as Donna Elvira, Matthew Treviño as Leporello, Maria Lindsey as Zerlina, Jonathan Boyd as Don Ottavio, Christian Bowers as Masetto, and Richard Wiegold as the Commendatore. Conductor Ari Pelto also makes his first appearance with OC. Kevin Newbury returns as director, after directing Mozart’s The Magic Flute in 2006.
On the surface, the story follows the exploits of the legendary sex-addicted Don Juan (Don Giovanni). His success with women gives him a cavalier disregard for people, and he casually kills the father (Commendatore) of a woman (Donna Anna) he tries to rape. This signals the beginning of the end for him. Even his servant Leporello, a good guy, calls him a “scoundrel” but retains a love/hate relationship with him, as does Donna Elvira his former lover who cannot let him go. They are classic enablers.
This is a story about relationships and about good versus evil. In the end, good triumphs with a little help from divine revenge. Mozart called this work an “opera buffa,” and while it does have many wonderful comedic moments, they are blended with melodrama and the supernatural, making this a piece of pure theatre. He wrote the piece when he was only 31.
What may come as a surprise is the opera’s setting in the 1950s. Don Giovanni and Leporello make their entrance into a piazza in Italy in a red sports car. Dressed in jeans and white t-shirt, the Don channels James Dean and Leporello idolizes him like Sal Mineo in Rebel Without a Cause. The difference, of course, is that Dean is inherently good and elicits empathy while a depraved Don Giovanni induces distain.
While some opera buffs may prefer traditional sets, others appreciate the innovative look of a timeless tale set to music of a genius. The 50s setting “works as a way to bring the contemporary world together,” said Opera Colorado’s General Director Greg Carpenter. “It allows the audience’s mind to take away from the production.”
Free pre- and post-performance lectures are offered for each presentation of Don Giovanni. One hour before each performance, music historian Betsy Schwarm speaks about the opera. Immediately following each performance, General Director Greg Carpenter and Director of Artistic Operations Brad Trexell host a talkback with the audience. Both events take place in the front center section of the orchestra.
Three more performances will be Tuesday, April 2 at 7:30 p.m.; Friday, April 5 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, April 7 at 2 p.m. For tickets, call 303-468-2030 or visit www.OperaColorado.org.