Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Stage

New Century Opera brings Mozart's Don Giovanni to Tarpon Springs

TARPON SPRINGS — The Tarpon Springs Performing Arts Center will be buzzing this weekend with the ire of women jilted by one very famous lover.

Mozart's opera Don Giovanni tells the story of Don Juan, the fictional Spanish womanizer, and three of his conquests who are looking to settle a score. Sung in English, the production is directed by Constantine Grame, artistic and executive director of the New Century Opera.

"The music is timeless, and people have loved this wonderful Mozart score since it was written," Grame said. "The story is one of those moral dilemmas. Don Giovanni, better known as Don Juan, is one of those characters we love to hate."

Donna Anna, played by Linda L. Hines, is one of those women who has been caught in Giovanni's web of seduction. She is attacked or seduced by Giovanni, and her father is subsequently killed by him in a duel.

"In this version, Don Giovanni didn't rape Donna Anna," Hines said. "She had an 'Oops, I have a boyfriend' moment — that's what we're calling it. And with that approach comes so much complexity. She has to cover up that she knew what was happening."

Hines adds that Donna Anna's sadness doesn't come from something Giovanni did to her, but from her own guilt knowing she is partly to blame for her father's death.

To create that passion on stage, Hines dug deep into her own emotions.

"In a lot of renditions, people play her (Donna Anna) as very calm and melancholy and I didn't want to do that," Hines said. "I thought about my own father. My dad and I are so close; I'm a total daddy's girl. If anything happened to him because of me, I don't think I'd be able to live anymore. It's that emotion I try to channel within Donna."

The rest of the cast includes Christopher Holloway as Don Giovanni, Chris Romeo as Don Ottavio, Kevin Nickorick as Leporello, John Short as the Commandant and Masetto, Rachael Marino as Donna Elvira, and Megan Schmidt as Zerlina.

Because it is sung in English, the production gives those who might shy away from opera an opportunity to not only understand what's being said, but to be entertained and swept away by the music.

"We have a great opera culture here with the St. Petersburg Opera, Tampa Opera and Sarasota Opera, who offer amazing productions and all in the original languages," Grame said. "We feel we can bring something different to the table by offering opera in English."

The principles, the chorus, the rich set and costumes complete with powdered wigs transport an audience to a 17th century setting, when women wore floor-length silky gowns and sword-wielding men dueled for women's honor. But it is the music and voices filled with emotion that reach people's minds and hearts.

"We don't like what he does, but he has an allure to him," Grame said of Don Giovanni. "Ideally, you want the ladies to hate him and also want to be with him and the guys to hate him, but also want to be him. He leaves us with these questions in our minds of the right and wrong of everything that goes on in the story. It's as relevant now as it ever was."

Don Giovanni is the second of three operas Mozart wrote in collaboration with librettist Lorenzo da Ponte. The playful drama intertwines moments of comedy and tragedy and includes two of Mozart's most famous melodies: the duet Là ci darem la mano and a serenade sung by (Christopher Holloway) Giovanni, Deh vieni alla finestra.

Giovanni may not be the one to bring home to meet dad, but he is a unique character study. And in Mozart's Don Giovanni, he is the focus of three women seeking revenge, which makes for an exciting night of opera.

"You get a little bit of everything with this piece," Grame said. "It's a good first opera, exploring love, romance, lust and the right and wrong of all those things. It's an intellectually interesting piece, but above all it's very entertaining."

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