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PDX OPERAbeat | A Company Blog is the blog for all things Portland Opera, featuring a variety of guest contributors who will provide insider's tidbits on all we do to celebrate the beauty and breadth of opera.

The rake punished: A peek at our Don Giovanni

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Dan Okulitch as Don Giovanni, gazing at our fantastic makeshift crucifix, hereby proving you really can make anything out of gaff tape


It's Saturday morning; I'm sitting in our first Don Giovanni orchestra reading. Normally I require beta blockers in order to function in the first reading of a show, because it's during the first orchestra rehearsal that all sorts of things I didn't realize I'd forgotten about tend to leap from the bushes. (This doesn't actually happen all that often but it could happen, so of course I get anxious about it). I worry that I forgot to mark a cut in someone's part. I worry that maybe somebody has the wrong rehearsal numbers somehow, or that I forgot that important Act I finale orchestra 3 insert (there is a great Charles Ives-ish section in the Act I finale where there are THREE DIFFERENT ORCHESTRAS all playing at once). I even worry -- seriously-- that the musicians will forget to show up. Fortunately, Don Giovanni couldn't be farther from the Big Night gala in terms of the orchestra librarian's experience. We are performing this piece without cuts, and there is little to jump out and eat me. Then again, we aren't even an hour in so ask me about this again in a week.

 

Clutching our pearls: Our racy Don Giovanni


First, a delightfully concise summary of the action, from PBS's website:

When Don Giovanni tries to rape Donna Anna, the engaged daughter of a nobleman, things go horribly wrong, ending in the  father's death. Anna makes her fiancĂ© swear revenge against the evil doer. Later, at a wedding, the naughty Don Giovanni attempts to sexually assault the bride, Zerlina. In his exuberant drunkenness, his loud voice is recognized by Anna as that of her attacker and her father's murderer. Despite warnings that he will be punished for his evil ways, Don Giovanni refuses to reform himself, and his house is engulfed in flames as he is dragged off to purgatory. Later, the other characters in the story talk about their plans for the future and sing, "Such is the fate of a wrongdoer."

 

I'm going to lay this out for you right off the bat: This is not your grandma's Giovanni. (Although it might be MY grandma's -- she's pretty badass). This production of Don Giovanni is not family-friendly. Don Giovanni itself is, of course, an opera about a libertine's sexual conquests, and this production definitely embraces the gritty underbelly of the drama. (To great effect, in my opinion.)

 

There is violence, and blood, and a lot of sex. So if you are imagining a Don Giovanni like this:

 

ZerlinaKiss

Aaron Theno as Masetto and Amber Opheim as Zerlina in Portland Opera's 2006 Giovanni / Photo by Duane Morris

 

 

...you should just go ahead and mentally erase that. Replace it with this:



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Jason Hardy as Leporello & Daniel Okulitch as Giovanni in the 2009 NYCO production / Photo by Carol Rosegg



Personally -- I'm just going to put this out there -- I am okay with this update.

 

Giovanni is an opera that particularly lends itself to modern interpretations, since the story is pretty timeless. Womanizer leaves a trail of devastated women in his wake until he finally messes with the wrong person. We know that story! (Some of us better than others. Ahem.) So far I've attended several rehearsals but I've only caught act 2. Here's a glimpse:

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The chorus almost looks like they could be on the verge of spelling TOTO with their funeral wreaths but they are actually menacing Daniel Okulitch, our Giovanni.

 

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Jason Hardy (Leporello) can balance a chair on his chin. COOL. Also he juggles. For the record, I can also juggle, but when Jason juggles he makes it look easy, and when I do it I make it look impossible. +1, Jason.

 

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Harold Wilson as the Commendatore, back to exact some posthumous revenge. Also please note that this is officially the tallest cast ever. Even when they're not standing on tables.

 


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Revenge: nailed it. Please note that no Dan Okulitches were harmed in the making of this Act II finale.

 

Anyway, although this might be visually different than what you think of when you think Mozart, it's a really exciting take on the show. I'm looking forward to seeing the production from the beginning, which I'll get to do this week. The next update will include BLOOD. I love blood onstage! Because something is wrong with me.

 

This is a remounting of Christopher Alden's 2009 work with New York City Opera.  While this is not a tour, our production does feature the set, costumes and three of the celebrated cast members.

Check out review from that production (spoiler alert!):

New York Times

Timeout NY

Theatermania

 


Overheard at the office: Giovanni edition

 

"She is currently flame-proofed, yes?"

 

"We had a coffin fitting with Harold over the weekend."

 

 

Comments:

Don G for president!

He's already got the binders full of women.