Don Giovanni by Boston Opera Collaborative

Mozart’s Don Giovanni is seriously out of step with our times. The producers at Boston Opera Collaborative realized this and posted a trigger warning on the door to the theater:

The original libretto, written without the benefit of the latest batch of Marvel female superhero movies, has Donna Anna’s honor defended (to the death) by her father. Mom is nowhere to be seen. In the modern B.O.C. version, it is a single mom who defends Anna at the cost of her own life, then comes back as a vengeful ghost to kill Don Giovanni.

The Boston Opera Collaborative’s update does not address one of the more problematic parts of the story for a modern audience, i.e., that nearly all of the women (2,000+) who had sex with Don Giovanni apparently did so voluntarily, attracted by his wealth and position or his fine words:

With blondes it is his habit
To praise their kindness;
In brunettes, their faithfulness;
In the white-haired, their sweetness.

As former Harvard Winthrop House dean Ronald Sullivan might be saying soon at Harvey Weinstein’s trial: “He had thousands of satisfied customers and just a handful of complaints.”

B.O.C. gives Don Giovanni (played convincingly by Junhan Choi) a modern way to reel in the females: he is a fashion photographer with a studio. He has a female enabler assistant (played silently, yet dramatically, by Felisha Trundle), just like a lot of the guys who’ve been #MeTooed. convincingly delivered the love/hate situation of Donna Elvira.

Sarah Cooper as Zerlina has some of the most troubling lyrics, delivered with an amazing voice and acting talent. In “Là ci darem la mano” she is considering abandoning her fiance for the just-met Don Giovanni because he is rich, has a fancy castle, and can raise her standard of living:

I would like to, and I wouldn’t,
My heart is trembling a little.
True, I could be happy,
But it could trick me again.

The only thing that she knows about this guy is that he is richer than the person she has promised to marry. Rich guy says “I will change your fate.” and she is coming around to the idea (“Soon…I won’t be strong anymore.” then “Let’s go!”), but Donna Elvira (Isabelle Zeledón; great), the spurned earlier lover, intervenes and proves Don G’s villainy by showing Zerlina evidence from a smartphone (texts?).

Her apology to Musetto (acted with appropriate frustration by John Bitsas) is what should generate a trigger warning. “Batti, batti, o bel Masetto”:

Batti, batti, o bel Masetto, Beat me, dear Masetto,
La tua povera Zerlina; beat your poor Zerlina.
Starò qui come agnellina I’ll stand here as meek as a lamb
Le tue botte ad aspettar. and bear the blows you lay on me.
Lascierò straziarmi il crine, You can tear my hair out,
Lascierò cavarmi gli occhi, put out my eyes,
E le care tue manine yet your dear hands
Lieta poi saprò baciar. gladly I’ll kiss.

The sets were spare, but reasonably effective. Quotes from men in modern headlines were projected during the overture. Big Harvey made the list and, of course, Donald Trump (full quote used: “And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab ’em by the pussy.”).

As with previous Boston Opera Collaborative productions, I enjoyed not being one of 3,800 (Metropolitan Opera House seating capacity). In the age of 4K video and good microphones, I would rather see the big productions electronically and get up close to rising stars.

7 thoughts on “Don Giovanni by Boston Opera Collaborative

  1. Us students of engineering have no idea how you liberal arts majors can survive hours of the same song being sung over & over in a foreign language. The warning labels are only going to get longer, as obese generation X is warned about action scenes that might spike their heartrate.

  2. I don’t think Sullivan will be saying anything at Harvey Weinstein’s trial, because he formally announced his court-approved withdrawal from the Weinstein defense team on May 13th. He attributed that move to scheduling conflicts with his teaching obligations, but we should also remember that his home was vandalized.

    https://www.insidehighered.com/quicktakes/2019/05/14/harvard-professor-quits-lawyer-weinstein

    https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/05/harvard-ronald-sullivan-weinstein/589300/

  3. Us fusty tim’rs, and our f’r fath’rs.
    Oh how didst we survive this termagant w’rld yond we hath lived in.

    Wh’re landl’rds did rule on us.
    Nay gov’rnment to hest us.
    And kings didst whatev’r those gents did want.
    And men and women didn’t give a shit of losing sleep over being too sensitive.

    [in case you didn’t get it, that’s Shakespearean — telling today’s generation how they are too sensitive and emotional over nothing]

  4. I watched Carmen in Seattle yesterday. Theater was full. There was knife subbing, sexual violence, murder and suicide. I don’t know how my fragile psyche will cope!
    #ManUp

  5. My daughter is an Opera Graduate Student at Texas Women’s University. She is leaving Wednesday to study in Italy for an Opera Young Artist program.

    During her undergraduate studies at University of Texas at Dallas, they performed Il Nozze de Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro) updated to a modern New York City setting, translated to English. They still did the arias with English words.

    My daughter was Marcellina, who tries to trap Figaro into marriage because he owes a debt to her. The interaction in the first act between Marcellina and Susanna was simply magic.
    https://youtu.be/kC_haQ3EvOw
    This is 1 hr 1 min, so you will need to forward to minute 13:45 or so.

    The actress playing Cherubino stole the show. Her name is Ivey Barr. Here’s a solo from her performance.
    https://youtu.be/IXXeVRAiNlE

    With right performers, I think this would be a fresh new thing for Broadway! Classic Operas updated to keen settings, translated to English.

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