DON GIOVANNI (AVA): A dilettante at large review

Mozart’s Don Giovanni is the greatest opera ever written. Don’t take my word for it—what do I know, I’m a dilettante—but that was the opinion of Rossini, Gounod and Wagner (according to Henry W. Simon’s book, 100 Great Operas).

With all due deference to Mozart,  and to the fine young voices of the cast, the production that just opened at the Academy of Vocal Arts, is one long, narratively wacky, awkwardly directed throwback. Given the #MeToo times we live in, how do you  produce an  amusing opera about a serial rapist?

 A “Don Juan,” is an old-fashioned term for a rake, a heartbreaker, a wrecker of marriages, a narcissistic creep who uses his aristocratic social class as a seductive weapon, who mocks women’s gullibility, who keeps a book-length record of his conquests; this no longer an amusing social construct.   But we are supposed to be amused for three and a half hours, until he is finally, finally,  punished for his sins.

If only the director, Jeffrey Buchman, had set it in, say, a frat house or a board room (or a dressing room in Bergdorf Goodman), and done away with the swords and the fusty old costumes, and given the opera a bit of contemporary relevance.  If only he had encouraged/allowed the singers to act during their immense arias, if only the lighting had illuminated instead of casting pointless shadows if only he had found a way to resolve the peculiar demands of the comic while performing the tragic…. 

Well, you get the idea.

[Academy of Vocal Arts at Helen Corning Warden Theater, 1920 Spruce St] April 27-May 2, 2023; [at Central Bucks South High School, 1100 Folly Rd, Warrington, PA] May 6, 2023; [at The Haverford School’s Centennial Hall, 450 Lancaster Avenue, Haverford, PA] May 9, 2023;

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.