Lyric Opera’s “Don Giovanni” Review – Modern Setting Gives Opera New Resonance


That cad! That two-timer!— three-timer!—no! he’s a timer to the nth degree!



That libertine!


That devil!


And with our modern sensibilities excited by this production, we are prompted to also add a more contemporary accusation of “That misogynist pig!”



We are talking of the title character Don Giovanni so masterfully played by Polish baritone Mariusz Kwiecień that we yearn to hear his golden cords even as we are groomed to find him repulsive and evil.  He is the anti-hero we both love and hate, and this modern context is achieved in no small part because of the director’s decision to re-set this opera in 1920’s Spain.  This was a time and place where the excesses of the upper classes were coming under the scrutiny of more modern and egalitarian expectations. 


In this video clip, Robert Falls talks about his decision to reset “Don Giovanni” in this more modern setting.



In the pre-performance talk, music historian and Mozart expert David Buch likened Mozart and his librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte as akin to Woody Allen in that they are the masters of creating great female roles. 



One of these women is Donna Elvira, sung beautifully by soprano Ana María Martínez,



a woman who has been used and discarded by Don Giovanni



and who moves us with her phases of seeking justice, and later hoping to help her still beloved Don Giovanni repent or face sure damnation.




We meet another of Giovanni’s attempted conquests, Donna Anna sung with great power by soprano Marina Rebeka, as Don Giovanni is dashed in his attempt to rape her. 




Donna Anna becomes consumed with grief and a desire for revenge for Don Giovanni’s murder of her father. 




It is her father, The Commendatore,  sung equally powerfully by bass Andrea Silvestrelli, who brings Don Giovanni to his predictable end in hell. 



And it is her ever pining fiancée Don Ottavio sung by tenor Antonio Poli, whom the audience is moved to laugh at when she again puts off his wedding request, that helps show Donna Anna’s all consuming passion to bring Don Giovanni down.



Soprano Andriana Chuchman is the sometimes coquettish and sometimes manipulative Zerlina, a woman who considers Don Giovanni on her wedding day as a possible trade-up from her prospective groom, Masetto, performed by baritone Michael Sumuel



Along with these women and the evil Don Giovanni we also meet Leporello, the Don’s indispensible right-hand man, who at times laments that he is bought as cheaply as the many women that Don Giovanni has conquered. 




Leporello was performed memorably and with great comic timing by baritone Kyle Ketelsen.



Conducted by Sir Andrew Davis, it is Mozart’s music that first and foremost shines in this production as it has through the years. 



We are watching and listening to a story that is ultimately an account of damnation for a sinner who refused to confess and repent.  The music is so beautiful and the comic moments so frequent that you need to remind yourself that this story is actually a parable about evil finding its just reward in hell.   The libretto of moral suasion at the opera’s conclusion is sung so beautifully that we would not think it a moral lesson if the words did not tell us otherwise.



“Don Giovanni” was the first opera ever performed by the Lyric and has had many productions through the years.  A treat of this current production that should not be missed is the display of historic photos and costumes in the lower level of the Lyric in the spot where the lines circle outside the ladies room. 


“Don Giovanni” runs through October 29.  For tickets and information call 312 827 5600 or visit the Lyric Opera website




Photos:  Todd Rosenberg, unless otherwise indicated



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