Wednesday, August 06, 2008
Don Juan on the Docks
The two-performance run of Mozart's "Don Giovanni" has wrapped up at the Cowell Theatre on a dock at Fort Mason and the mostly glowing reviews are in. (Click here for Joshua Kosman's rave in the "Chronicle," and click here for the Opera Tattler's account.)
There were many pleasures involved in participating as an extra in this production. Chief among them was interacting onstage with the genius clown from Guadalajara, Carlos Monzon (above left), who was a wonderful Leporello, and Austin Kness from Cedar Rapids, Iowa as the charismatic anti-hero Don Giovanni (above right).
At the first rehearsals I wasn't sure Austin was going to be able to pull the role off because he was so personally nice, and the character is something of a bastard...
...but he grew each day into his performance and by opening night he was radiating such powerful energy that he was literally electric.
Ben Wager as the Commendatore will probably be singing Don Giovanni himself someday since he looks almost perfectly typecast for the role and is a major presence onstage.
Joelle Harvey as Zerlina the peasant bride (above) managed to be adorable without being cutesie, which is trickier than it sounds, and her scenes with Adam Cioffari as Masetto were some of the highlights of the show.
The two diva roles were sung by Rena Harms as Donna Elvira (foreground above) and Amanda Majeski (background above) as Donna Anna.
On opening night, Rena gave the best performance of Donna Elvira I've ever heard...
...and at the Sunday matinee, Amanda totally came into her own and sang Donna Anna with perfect beauty and conviction.
The principal pleasure of the entire experience, however, was working under the tutelage of the diva-turned-director, Catherine Malfitano, who taught the young singers and the old supernumeraries more about stagecraft in three weeks than I've learned in my life. It was serious fun, aided and abetted by the wonderful Mexican tenor David Lomeli as Don Ottavio and my friend Charlie Lichtman as a fellow lackey, peasant, and demon.