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.


The Opera Tattler said...

I wish I could have seen the Sunday performance as well. The Friday performance did make me absolutely giddy though!

Ced said...

I did not like the Friday performance! I'm pretty easy to please usually. The singers were great, for sure. And you were admirably stoic. Oh well.

I'd agree with you on one of the best Donna Annas that I have ever heard, but can you say that, won't your friend Elza be upset?

Civic Center said...

Dear Ced: Elza wouldn't be upset. She's the bomb, I know it, and she knows it. Sorry you didn't like the performance. I've been waiting for a review from you over at SFist but I suppose you're proceeding on the "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all" tactic.

Civic Center said...

Dear Ced: Whoops! Just read your take over at SFist. Sounds like it was more fun for us than for you.

BassBird said...

Hey Mike, you took great pictures and your narrative was quite enjoyable. It was really nice to work with you, you guys did a great job. I hope is not the last time we work together. All the best,

Civic Center said...

Dear Carlos: You and Austin were the bomb together. I haven't had that much fun in years. And yes, I hope you make it to the main stage soon and will be singing into my ears as I'm running around with another ridiculous wig on my head.

We'll probably be seeing you all at the Grand Finale on Saturday, by the way. I'm sure you'll be great.