A break-in, a rape and a murder enough action for a whole opera, and yet that's just the first scene. Virginia Opera's production of Mozart's "Don Giovanni" Feb. 16, 18 and 20 challenges the audience with its questions of lust, self-control and the social order. Mozart's "Don Giovanni" is a stirring combination of comic and tragic opera that both unsettles and delights. Most people know something of Mozart's tuneful, comforting and fun music, either through watching period movies such as "Amadeus" or even "Elizabeth," where his stunningly beautiful requiem is played as the credits roll. What many don't know about is the cutting-edge revolutionary nature of Mozart's operas, especially his two most popular and humorous works "The Marriage of Figaro" and "Don Giovanni," both of which share the same subject: seduction and failure and their impact on the social fabric. A 24-hour snapshot of the life of the infamous Spanish nobleman, Don Juan, (Don Giovanni), Mozart's opera offers as much slapstick comedy as a good Saturday morning of the Three Stooges. During the opera's two acts Giovanni tries to seduce four women two noblewomen, a maid and a peasant girl on her wedding day six times. Throw in a servant who takes turns dressing up like his perfidious master, causing several cases of mistaken identity, and dinner with a stone guest and you've got all the fixings of a comic opera. "And yet," says the Virginia Opera's General and Artistic Director Peter Mark, " 'Don Giovanni' is a human drama in all its poignancy that shows how ridiculous we all are when we get entangled with forces that we cannot deal with. Giovanni is an opera for our time because the modern age is still wrestling with the questions of nature versus self control: Is Don Giovanni expressing an irrepressible life force, or is it something for which he needs to be condemned to hell?" "He needs women just as he needs food," adds baritone Jeffrey Buchman, who has performed the role of Don Giovanni in three productions of the opera. "He respects women in the way that he idolizes and obsesses about them. It's his obsessive need that does him in; he plays the game but only to win." Soprano Fabiana Bravo, who has performed the role of Donna Anna twice, isn't falling for it. "I think this kind of man is very sick," she says. "He cannot control his animal instincts and wreaks havoc on the social order." The genius of Mozart and librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte's work lies in this very tension, the unease between Enlightenment civility and Romantic passion. "From the murder and attempted rape in the first scene until the fires of hell in the last, the rest of the work is playful fun," Mark
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