Opening Nights: Don Giovanni

In which Mozart's eternal seducer has to resort to gunplay.

I'm resigned to the fact that I'll probably never again see a portrayal of Mozart's title character that doesn't overemphasize his dark side. The idea of a sympathetic, likable womanizer (at best; rapist at worst) is irretrievably un-p.c. Yet making him an overt jerk brings its own issues, and not only the obvious what-do-women-see-in-him factor: If Don G has to pull a gun to get what he wants—as occurs in Peter Kazaras' stylish but problematic production for the Seattle Opera Young Artists program—he's already admitting failure in the art of persuasion. Baritone David Krohn throws himself into the role with plenty of verve, though it's still somewhat beyond him vocally; in particular, I don't recall ever hearing such pitch-scooping from a Seattle Opera artist, young or otherwise, a tic most pronounced, and detrimental, in his seductive numbers (his Act 1 duet with would-be conquest Zerlina and his Act 2 serenade). As Donna Elvira, the Don's wronged ex, Amanda Opuszynski sizzles in one aspect of her character, the avenger, though she chooses not to probe too far into the other possibilities (the comedy, the pathos) of this most layered of soprano roles. Among the other leads, the most confident and convincing is Erik Anstine as the Don's servant Leporello. The time and place of this modern-dress Don Giovanni is unspecified; the clearest indicator is that we're at a point when men's headgear, fedoras vs. caps, still serves as a class marker. Certainly, everyone looks good in Candace Frank's costumes. In the production's happiest, sleekest idea, projected clips and stills from black-and-white films serve as a backdrop to the simple, industrial-chic set (metal chairs, tables, two scaffolds) and as counterpoint to what the singers are doing in front of them. The potential for distraction was high, but nearly always skillfully avoided. (Don't, however, show footage from Nosferatu if you want anyone to pay attention to anything else.)

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