Don Giovanni

The Academy of Vocal Arts reminds me of the Barnes Foundation as a wonderfully intimate space in the area that for years most people didn’t know existed; but once discovered becomes many peoples favorite.

It is about as close to the source of music an ear can get without actually being a performer. It’s penetrating, yet not forced in that room. Tonight I was excited to once again hear Don Giovanni led by Christopher Macatsoris. We saw him and his reputed focused precision in 2015. However, he did not conduct tonight as planned. It was different, but equally exciting to see the younger Robert Kahn with his rising reputation conduct. It was an evening of new people.

I had the pleasure of sitting next to the general director/president of opera Philadelphia, David B. Devan. It felt weirdly serendipitous because I almost approached him two days ago at the Academy of Music. I appreciated that he was in the center of the lobby for La Boheme present and available for the audience. As a fan that really connected with me as a warm and generous act on his part.

He has the most interesting task as director of striking a balance between tried and true favorites while also giving new operas and voices a chance. Boheme was a bold and worthy choice.

Don Giovanni proves that it is not only contemporary opera that comes with controversy. The Don is a terrible criminal, since the reckoning of ‘me too’ it is difficult not to wince at his crimes, they feel extra present and biting now. I’m trying to see his archetypal character though as an exaggerated device. Along with opera plots in general, he is but a vehicle for sound, and sound written by Mozart no less.

Without the Don being as awful as he is, it would be difficult for me to feel as much sympathy as I do for Donna Anna, Leporello, and the other characters not to mention being a foil for Mozart’s counterpoints.

The evening would be worth it if only for that opening D minor, but then the quartets and sextets are overwhelmingly fulfilling. We can see the Don and crew spit from our seats. His duality of evil and charm has me both rooting for and against him.

I’m honestly jealous of the Don, not for what he does, but his nonchalance about what he does. No matter the situation he glides through unaffected with inflated confidence. There are so many moments in my own life where the external situation controls my mood and behavior; and I hate that. It’s an attractive fantasy to float through conflict the way the Don does.

It was a great to share the evening with a friend and then take the Patco train back and eavesdrop on the car full of musicians on an early spring night, one sure to make a difficult work morning tomorrow, but worth it.

“Amadeus” is one of my favorite operas. This cartoon nods to that movie and the many tall people who have sat in front of me over the years.

So what’s Don Giovanni all about? The title character for this opera, lives a privileged life without consequence and treats women as objects to be collected. He is a murderer as well as a womanizer. He is a terrible figure, but the music is so lively, you can’t help but be caught up in his adventures as he gets into and then wiggles out of trouble. But, can he wiggle out of trouble forever?

Notes on the Production:

Composer…………………. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Libretto……………………. Lorenzo Da Ponte
Conductor…………………. Robert Kahn

Don Giovanni…………….Benjamin Dickerson
Donna Anna………………. Lydia Grindatto
Leparello…………………… Dylan Gregg
Zerlina………………………. Jenny Anne Flory”
Masetto……………………… Yue Wu
Donna Elvira……………… Emily Margevich
Don Ottavio……………….. Shawn Roth
Commendatore………….. Griffen Hogan Tracy

Academy of Vocal Arts
5/2/23

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