Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Don Giovanni



Though the picture above of the San Francisco Bay in late July looks straight out of Wagner's "The Flying Dutchman," in truth it was the setting at Fort Mason for rehearsals of the Merola production of Mozart's "Don Giovanni" at the Cowell Theatre.



My entrance into the beauty of opera was through a production of "Don Giovanni" I saw at the San Francisco Opera in the mid-1970s with a cast I don't even remember. It wasn't the first opera I'd ever seen but it was the first one that struck me physically and spiritually as a "eureka" moment on the order of "My god, this art form is great. I had no idea."



I have long wanted to see "Don Giovanni" in a small opera house, which is what it was written for, rather than the huge barns of San Francisco or Chicago or New York, which are perfect for "grand opera" but not really ideal for most 18th century operas.



By chance, I have ended up getting to be inside a perfect, small production of "Don Giovanni" for the last three weeks as a non-singing actor instead of just watching it, which has felt like an unexpected blessing.



The San Francisco Opera has a summer training program that functions a bit like a minor league baseball team, where young athletes/singers learn their trade for little to no money and get funneled into a career path based on their god-given gifts and their teachers' estimation of their abilities.



The crew assembled for this "Don Giovanni" has obviously been cherry-picked because they are all tremendously good young singers, and watching them being directed by the legendary diva Catherine Malfitano has been a master class in itself.



Hearing a pick-up chamber orchestra tackle Mozart in a small theatre with a very good conductor and musicians is also an amazing experience...



...and to top it all off, I have been given a wig for our peasant scene that the preeminent wig master Richard Battle pronounced, "looks like your own hair, it's perfect" which of course makes one feel outrageously sexy. So does the opera, with its dark distillation of sensuality and humor and death.

11 comments:

momo said...

The first picture of the Bay has got to be one of the most beautiful I have ever seen.

To be part of this production sounds like a dream. Years ago, when I lived with a young baritone who sang in smaller local productions in the Bay Area(not the Merola!)), I attended a lot of rehearsals for a production of Don Giovanni. It was so marvelous to watch it all come together. I still get goosebumps at the end when the Count asks for forgiveness.

momo said...

Oops, that should have been Marriage of Figaro,not Don Giovanni! DG gives me plendy of goosebumps as well.

The Opera Tattler said...

I'm so excited to see this production. Thanks for the preview.

namastenancy said...

You DO look outrageously sexy - a rake and a rogue and a vagabond (and peasant and demon). The man of a thousand faces and several (?) great cameras. I'm going to try and make a matinee as I love the opera but don't like to be out late at night, particularly on Muni.

Ced said...

They'll have to run after you, catch you and tackle you before you return that hair piece. It took me two looks at it to realize it was you.

sfmike said...

Dear Nancy: I'm afraid the two performances are already sold out. It really is a small theater.

Dear momo: Thanks for the "Figaro" correction. I was thinking, "nobody forgives Giovanni by the end."

Dear ced: I've asked them to put my name on the wig somewhere so I can wear it in every upcoming production at the opera, no matter what hairstyles they are looking for.

Joe Lynn said...

Same thing for me, Mike. Don Giovanni was the opera that first revealed the art form to me.

I don't know if Don Giovanni needs any forgiveness. Mozart clearly loved the character, and he accepts his fate with some gallantry. The hell is his, and he owns it.

Matty Boy said...

I love your backstage stuff. Absolutely brilliant. And the shot of the ship in the haze is just as good.

Larry-bob said...

Out with business suits, in with 18th century dress!

Janet Kathleen Tandy said...

Is the "Hottie" in the patterned vest (with beard) Austin Kness? By all reports, his voice is fantastic.

sfmike said...

Dear Janet: No, the "hottie" is Ben Wager, who was singing the Commandante. I'll have a photo up of Austin Kness up later. In truth, everybody's voices were fantastic in this production. It was a real treat.