Sexy, sexier and sexiest
05/13/2006 - and 16, 18, 20 May 2006
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Don Giovanni
David Pittsinger (Don Giovanni), Laquita Mitchell (Donna Anna), Daniel Mobbs (Leporello), Shawn Mathey (Don Ottavio), Pamela South (Donna Elvira), Amber Opheim (Zerlina), Aaron Theno (Masetto), Brian Jauhiainen (Commendatore)
Daniel Beckwith (conductor)
Jose Maria Condemi (Stage director)
Sexy, sexier and sexiest. All three adjectives describe the Portland Opera presentation of Don Giovanni.
The ever-popular piece, a 221-year keeper in the opera triad that Mozart wrote with librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte (Le nozze de Figaro and Cosi fan tutte were the other two), was a hit when it opened in Prague in 1787, and remains a hit today.
It still speaks to our hearts and to our ears in one big breath. Its themes of love’s conflicts driven by a narcissist, idealist or unrepentant evil-doer, depending on which psychoanalyst you listen to, touch us all. Darkly comic or comically tragic, Don Giovanni remains a compelling story dressed in unforgettable lyricism.
This Don Giovanni delivered a sexy performance by bass David Pittsinger as the Don, a sexier Donna Anna sung by gorgeous, up-and-coming soprano Laquita Mitchell, and the sexiest staging of a Portland Opera production in the recent past.
It’s provocative enough to watch Pittsinger fling his hair, laugh his sarcastic “ha!”, and seduce with more than his voice. But pulling off the beautiful “Vedrai, carino, se sei buonino” (“You’ll see, my darling, if you are good…”) while Masetto (Aaron Theno) caresses her, breasts and all, was a feat that mezzo-soprano Amber Opheim managed with grace as a dream-struck Zerlina. The groping wasn’t essential, but the aria was indispensable.
The curtain opens on the bare (and fully waxed) chest of the towering Don finishing off the attempted, or perhaps consummated, seduction of Donna Anna. That early into the opera, we knew we were in for more than lyrical phrasing and soaring melodies about the conquests and consequences of literature’s bigger-than-life character.
Performed in two acts with a museum-like set of sliding walls, mirrors, and portraits (turned catawampus in the second act), the production was originally created for the Cincinnati Opera by Nicholas Muni. As intriguingly as the minimalist staging contrasts with the complex emotional situations of the characters, the singing provided enough reason to experience the three-hour opera.
When Mitchell appeared in the first act as a distraught Donna Anna with her “Come furia disperata” (“Like a desperate fury”) trio with Don Giovanni and Leporello (Daniel Mobbs), she stole the audience’s attention. She continued to upstage her colleagues as Donna Anna grieves her father’s death, spurns Don Ottavio’s love, and vengefully chases down the Don. During “Sola, sola in buio loco” (“Alone in this dark place”), her voice took off over those of her counterparts.’ The final act’s duet with Don Ottavio, “Al desio di chi t’adora” (“A lover must yield to the desires”) proved the opera’s most moving piece.
The cast was peppered with performers making their debut with Portland Opera, including Pittsinger, Mitchell, Shawn Mathey as Don Ottavio, Brian Jauhiainen as the Commendatore, music conductor Daniel Beckwith, and stage director Jose Maria Condemi.