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Advice

Opera Santa Barbara Brings Tropes of Film Noir to Production of Mozart’s ‘Don Giovanni’

Opera Santa Barbara will open its 2015–16 season with a uniquely compelling, film noir-inspired production of Mozart’s timeless masterpiece Don Giovanni Nov. 6 and 8, 2015.

Performances will take place at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 6, and at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 8, in Santa Barbara’s historic Granada Theatre.

Ranging in price from $29 to $204, tickets can be purchased at www.granadasb.org or by calling 805.899.2222.  

“Don Giovanni is a comedy, a drama, a love story, a psychological thriller and a moral dilemma. It’s life set to music by the greatest composer of all time,” said Kostis Protopapas, who was named artistic director of Opera Santa Barbara in July. “In our film noir-inspired production, light and shadow play many games, and the most intriguing man in opera becomes even more mysterious.”

Rapturously received at its 1787 premiere and hailed ever since as one of opera’s superlative achievements, Don Giovanni dramatizes the story of the legendary libertine Don Juan Tenorio.

Mozart, 31 and at the height of his artistic powers when he composed the opera, ingeniously captures the mythical dimension of his erotic subject.

In structure and style, the work of his librettist, Lorenzo Da Ponte, is equally masterful. The result is a thought-provoking, deeply moving tale and a score of unsurpassed beauty and eloquence.

Opera Santa Barbara’s production, which was originally staged by Kentucky Opera in 2013, conspicuously adopts the style and mood of film noir, the motion picture genre prevalent in the 1940s and ’50s characterized by cynicism, stark black-and-white photography and the narrative tropes of hardboiled, depression-era crime fiction.

According to stage director Kristine McIntyre, who helmed Kentucky Opera’s production, noir conventions present an ideal lens for navigating Don Giovanni’s notorious moral crosscurrents and ambiguities. 

“The piece has been called un-directable, and I think I know what that means,” she said. “Film noir — borne of the angst and unrest left behind by the second world war, made in an atmosphere of fear and distrust and uncertainty, with strong female characters who are just as rotten as the men in their lives, where there’s no such thing as innocence, and where the anti-hero knows he’s going to get it but is going to take us along for the ride — here is a world in which Giovanni makes sense.”  

Opera Santa Barbara’s production, conducted by Douglas Kinney Frost and directed by Kelly Robinson, will feature up-and-coming American baritone Mark Walters in the title role.

Described by Opera News as “a force to be reckoned with” and by the Chicago Sun-Times as a “vocal fury,” Walters “possesses a magnificently resonant voice and unforced dramatic ability,” according to The Salt Lake Tribune.

Following triumphant performances in recent productions of RigolettoIl trovatore and La traviata, critics have lauded his remarkable facility with demanding Verdi roles. His other recent engagements have included Fidelio with Opera Omaha and Kentucky Opera, Tosca with Sarasota Opera and La Bohéme with Opera Naples.

Award-winning soprano Marcy Stonikas, who sang the title role in Opera Santa Barbara’s 2013 production of Tosca, will appear as Donna Anna, Don Giovanni’s female nemesis.

Last season she sang the title roles in Ariadne auf Naxos with Seattle Opera and Turandot wih Cincinnati Opera and debuted with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra in a performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9.

Rounding out the cast will be soprano Rena Harms as Donna Elvira, bass-baritone Daniel Mobbs as Leporello, tenor Benjamin Brecher as Don Ottavio, and bass Kevin Thompson as Il Commendatore.

Last season Harms appeared with the Grand Théâtre de Genève as Helmwige in Die Walküre and made her role debut as Desdemona in Otello with the Oldenburgishes Staatstheater.

The 2014–15 season saw Mobbs return to the Metropolitan Opera as Kromow in the company’s new production of The Merry Widow. He also participated in the Met’s staging of La donna del Lago and debuted with Los Angeles Opera as Baron Douphol in Marta Domingo’s production of La traviata.

Brecher recently received plaudits for his turn as Gerald in California Opera’s staging of Lakme, while Thompson is coming off roles in Santa Fe Opera’s well-received productions of Rigoletto and Salome.

Complete artist biographies are available at www.operasb.org

Sung in Italian with English supertitles, Opera Santa Barbara’s production of Don Giovanni is generously supported by Roger and Sarah Chrisman, the Elaine F. Stepanek Foundation and the Mithun Family Foundation.

Opera Santa Barbara’s 2015–16 season will continue with Gaetano Donizetti’s romantic comedy L’elisir d’amore (The Elixir of Love) on March 4 and 6, 2016, and Puccini’s great one-act operas Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi on April 22 and 24, 2016. 

The Granada Theatre is located at 1214 State Street in Santa Barbara. To place a season subscription order, visit www.operasb.org or call 805.898.3890. 

— Tim Dougherty is a publicist representing Santa Barbara Opera.

 

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