On Saturday October 16, 1999, the Marsee auditorium played host to the San Francisco Opera and their production of, Don Giovanni. The San Francisco Opera features the world’s major operatic talents in its annual season.
The San Francisco Opera Center represents a new era in which young artists of major operatic potential can develop through intensive training and performance. Fortunately, for the people of Southern California, these professionals came to us. Don Giovanni, a classic opera created by Mozart was performed to its full potential, from beginning to end.The play opens with the audiences favorite and most humorous character Leporello, who is Don Giovanni’s servant, serving watch for his master as he tries to court Donna Anna, the daughter of the Commendatore. To understand Don Giovanni, we must understand his views on women and his views on himself. He is an arrogant man who tries to sleep with as many women as he possibly can. He sees women as majestic, charming, but will show love to them only if they fall for his intensive courting abilities.
While trying to seduce Donna Anna, she summons her father, the Commendatore, who rushes to her defense. The two begin in a duel in which Don Giovanni slays the old man. Upon seeing her dead father, Donna Anna and her fianc, Don Ottavio vows death as the only revenge. The next morning Leporello and Giovanni run into a celebration a young couple that is going to be married. The couple, Masetto and Zerlina, along with their friends are invited to Don Giovanni’s house for a celebration. However, Giovanni has the intentions of celebrating alone with Zerlina, who falls for his woes only until Elivra interrupts Giovanni’s game and denounces him taking Elvira away. After realizing that Giovanni is infact her father’s killer, Donna Anna calls for vengeance once again.
Meanwhile, back at the party, while everyone is enjoying themselves, Don Giovanni again tries to seduce Zerlina, only to make her cry out and startle everyone at the party. Afraid, Giovanni tries to place blame on Leporello as the one who attempted to seduce Zerlina, but no one believes him. Surrounded and condemned, his death seems to be upon him.. This concludes act one.
Act two begins with Giovanni telling his servant of his latest plot that involves the two switching outfits so that Giovanni can have a chance to woe Donna Elvira’s maid. This was a rather funny point in the play as we see Leporello struggle to impersonate Don Giovanni with humorous cape swinging and hand gestures. Finally, tired of using his hand to keep the cape above his face, Leporello uses Giovanni’s sword to keep it up. This brought the biggest amount of laughter throughout the play. To summarize, others realize that Leporello is impersonating Giovanni and let him escape as they search for Giovanni himself. When both Giovanni and Leporello meet at the graveyard, Leporello tells Giovanni of the angered crowd that is coming to kill him.
A voice is then heard coming from the Commendatore grave statue that describes Giovanni’s future. The statue is then invited by Giovanni and accepts. Later, Donna Anna tries to get Giovanni to change his ways but is rejected and scared when the statue of the Commendatore arrives. Don Giovanni is again told by the Commendatore to change his ways but denies and finally is dragged to his death and to hell by the statue.At the conclusion of act one, I was impressed with the performance so far.
Though not very glamorous, I liked the set used for the play. It was three dimensional, two pillars on the front end of the stage, with one major house structure in the back (seemed to have a foam or spongy look, but made of wood most likely). The set was “plastic”, meaning the actors were able to use it through the performance. It was also automatic or controlled by remote, having windows and doors open automatically.
The lighting of on stage, especially the light on the set itself was beautiful. I liked the way it reflected off the top of the villa and down on stage. Fog and strobe lights were used as well. These lights made the scene where Don Giovanni is dragged to hell one to remember.Through the gate, there was a backdrop that had a picture or painting of stairs and a fountain; I liked this since it made the set stick out as three-dimensional. Through act one all of the performers voices were excellent.
After all, they are professionals, and being professional means that we the audience expect the best. The voices of the performers were on cue with the music, they matched the pitches and tones, and rose and lowered on cue. Being a work of Mozart’s I can only expect to be amazed and that I was; not being a fan of Opera at all.
My favorite piece of music was of course that of Leporello when he sings of the number of women his master has conquered. It was catchy, it was humorous, and it was performed beautifully,Leporello, performed by Vladimir Shvets, made me laugh with his witty humor and his catchy song to Elvira, performed by Dana Beth Miller, about how many people his master has slept with. Of course with any Opera, the music must be of high standard. Every instrument soothed in perfect harmony and every pitch or increase in tone was received well on stage. The characters movements flowed with the music, their hand gestures, footsteps, all were in harmony. Don Giovanni, performed by Ricardo Herrera, our main character was excellent through the play. Though we see him as a man who cares for women on as objects of his desire, we still feel for him as a hero.
His actions, his grace, his elegance, are characteristics that we hope for in a hero. Another reason why this was such a tremendous production was due to the elegance of the costumes. I admit, I am not sure of what people in those times exactly wore, but for this play the costumes were elegant.
They consisted of mostly dark colors that favored Giovanni in many ways. Dressed most elegantly he would wear red when others wore black, he would wear black when others wore green. He always stood out. Cloaks, capes, long dresses that “poofed” out at the bottom were all worn. There were outfits that reminded me of royalty, with their colors and button arrangements, were worn by all the men in the performance (exception of Leporello, who wore what seemed to be a blanket or cloak over his shoulders the entire play).
Hats with white feathers, swords, shiny shoes, and enormous gowns were all worn. Velvet, polyester, silk, even nylons were used to make the costumes themselves.Performance was the reason that this Opera worked well. Having no prior knowledge of Don Giovanni all the actors seemed to fit their character roles perfectly. Don Giovanni, performed by Ricardo Herrera, looked like the type to be a womanizer, at least in costume, he also seemed to be arrogant. He fit his role well. Vladimir Shvets who portrayed Leporello, fit his part well.
He had the look of a poor, meek servant. His outfit fit his character well, as it resembled rags or the outfit of the poor. The three ladies, Donna Anna, performed by Julianna di Giacomo,; Donna Elvira, performed by Dana Beth Miller; and Zerlina, performed by Katia Giselle Escalera all had proper costumes that fit their roles properly. Masseto, performed by Eric Jordan, showed that he could sing with little musical numbers and first class acting as a jealous husband. His part after he is beating by Don Giovanni was perhaps my second favorite part in the play as he uses his weakness to embrace Zerlina. Don Ottavio, performed by Lee Gregory, had a rather small part but made his presence felt with his echoing voice and beautiful sound.Overall, the Opera was fun.
Don Giovanni, has probably been performed over thousands of times, some of them good, some of them bad. This was one of the good ones. Every aspect of the Opera was brought out to excellence, was portrayed with dignity, and performed with honor. The actors were well rehearsed and it showed with an excellent performance.