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Issue Date: September 2009


Why You'll Love Opera


Laura Crawford
Even if the only Italian words you can speak are from a menu, don’t be so sure opera isn’t for you. Fans of Opera Cleveland know what those who’ve achieved their full extent of opera knowledge watching Bugs Bunny cartoons do not: The productions are a mix of powerful music, captivating staging and timeless storytelling. Don Giovanni bows at the State Theatre stage Oct. 30. Here are four reasons you shouldn’t miss it.

[It’s a good story]
Based on the legend of Don Juan, Mozart’s opera tells the story of a man whose constant infidelity and lack of remorse results in his ultimate demise. Surtitles — translations projected above the stage — let English speakers follow along in an experience similar to watching a foreign film. And even if you know Don Giovanni well, “with Mozart, you always come away with something new every time,” says Opera Cleveland’s artistic director Dean Williamson.

[It has a dark side]

Though Don Giovanni was written and set in 1787, an ultramodern set by designer Kris Stone makes for a striking and unique visual experience. “The set almost looks like a Tim Burton film,” says Williamson. “It’s that kind of bizarre, slightly twisted [look that], visually and dramatically, has such a wonderful sense of whimsy.”

[It pushes the envelope]
The curtain rises in full period regalia (read: wigs and tights). But behind Don Giovanni is a series of five women in full-body leotards — “We’re calling them iPod girls, very slick,” says Williamson — wrapped floor to ceiling in nylon tubing. Their look is straight from the minds of Stone and director John Hoomes. “What I love is this juxtaposition,” Williamson says of the decision to pair period costumes with modern sets. “It’s taking the timeless theme even further.”

[It’s funny]
“So many people take this story as one man’s lack of redemption for his sins,” he says, “but it’s meant to be tongue-in-cheek.” Mozart classified Don Giovanni as a “dramma giocoso,” or comedic opera. Williamson explains, “As human beings, we’re not always dead-set or funny; we’re a little bit of both. It’s so funny and bizarre and yet serious at the same time.”

Oct. 30, Nov. 1 & 7, State Theatre, (216) 575-0903, operacleveland.org.

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