Don Giovanni: Sex and Sword Fights Done Right

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Don Giovanni sings and screws.
Let's preface this whole thing by saying that I'm not accustomed to attending performances in Miami where a significant percentage of female audience members are wearing fur coats. That said, I imagine that for other opera novices, Don Giovanni is a good one to cut your teeth on. It's got sex by the pound, gun and knife fights, and enough drama to make The Real Housewives of Miami look sedate. Written by Mozart and Italian librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte and first performed in 1787, the content of the show is still completely relatable today, and I know that because I was diligent about reading the subtitles projected above the stage (in English and Spanish).

The opera follows Don Giovanni (David Pittsinger), a remorseless womanizer, as he pursues conquest after conquest, sometimes going as far as to wear a mask or impersonate other people if it helps. He's unfazed by the boat loads of people he hurts along the way. In one scene, he announces nonchalantly that chasing women is more vital than consuming air or food.

Don Giovanni gets a bit reckless, however, when he climbs into Il Commendatore's daughter's window. The rather, uh, direct pass is not received well, and Il Commendatore and Giovanni fight in a nasty duel that leaves the former dead. The rest of the story is essentially about Donna Anna, the Commendatore's daughter, seeking to avenge her father's death. As Don Giovanni continues to add to his impressive tally of one night stands, Donna Anna acquires more and more sympathizers eager to see the Don go down.

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Florida Grand Opera
Jonathan Michie and Brittany Robinson.
Pittsinger portrays Don Giovanni pretty perfectly. Clad in absurd leather pants, sometimes donning sunglasses to add to his sleazy-cool factor, Pittsinger's overblown confidence, peacock poses, and macho, yet incredible, voice add a bit of '90s David Hasselhof flair to this classic Italian opera. He and his servant, Leporello (Tom Corbeil) have a bit of a Michael Scott/Dwight Schrute thing going on; Don Giovanni keeps making bad moves, Leporello goofily stumbles along, helping to facilitate the stupidity. Corbeil's exaggerated, dorky facial expressions and rather hipster sharply angled haircut make him fun to look at while he sings about the thousands of women Don Giovanni has slept with (Leporello apparently keeps a precise tally of the women in each country - 1003 in Spain alone!).

Georgia Jarman is outstanding in her portrayal of the pathetically obsessed jilted ex-lover, Donna Elvira. I think it's an added modernization that Jarman carries a baby doll as she sings about how ashamed she is about Don Giovanni loving and leaving her, insinuating that DG is the father, but I could be wrong. It seems a little Maury Povich for the 18th century, but hell, Mozart was ahead of his time!

My favorite was Jonathan G. Michie, who plays Masetto, the jealous husband of Zerlina (Brittany Ann Renee Robinson), one of Don Giovanni's conquests. Grabbing his bride desperately by the wrist, begging frantically for her not to allow herself to be alone with "the Don" (I know these things are all part of the script, but the way Michie conveys them was so genuine) the reality of his performance cut through the fact that he was singing the entire time and that the words were in Italian. Now that's a tall order.

Other notable performances: Jacquelyn Wagner, who plays Donna Anna, whose songbird voice is crystal clear and powerful, and Morris Robinson, Il Commendatore, with a rich booming voice and a physique that is just as immense! (Spoiler alert! But c'mon, the story is hundreds of years old...) When he comes back from the dead to try to force Don Giovanni to repent, his form alone is freaking frightening, never mind the eerie face paint, dark robes and dry ice smoke!

A beautiful story with equal parts drama, humor, and moral 'suasion, all portrayed by exquisite performers both on stage and in the orchestra pit, Don Giovanni is worth attending if you can swing it.

Performances at the Ziff Ballet and Opera House, 1300 Biscayne Boulevard, are on select days from April 22nd through May 14th. Go to the Florida Grand Opera website or call 800-741-1010.

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Location Info

Map

Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts

1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami, FL

Category: Music


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2 comments
NYer
NYer

Fur coats . . . typical Miami ... pretenious and 30 years behind the times.

A Pinsley
A Pinsley

Wonderful review and comment made on Jonathan Michie.

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