Bay View opera puts modern twist on timeless tale of Don Juan
Don Giovanni (Pablo Siqueros) seduces the young Zerlina (Katie Polit) in the Bay View opera production of "Don Giovanni." (Courtesy photo/John Agria / August 8, 2012)
At the opening, CEO Commendatore, sung by Joshua Vander Plaats, gives Don Ottavio, Benjamin Williams, a promotion. After all he is the fiance of his daughter Donna Anna sung by Aani Bourassa. With that the fireworks begin. Pablo Siqueiros is a licentious Giovanni that can't help but lure every woman he sees. The role of Giovanni is huge and Siqueiros never loses his bad character. With his creamy velvet baritone he tries his luck with Anna but things go horribly wrong and the Commendatore is killed.
Giovanni next tries to seduce a bride Zerlina (Katie Polit) on her wedding day despite the vigorous objections of her bridegroom Masetto sung by a punky spiked haired Nate Hill. Those plans get derailed by the interference of a former jilted lover Donna Elvira (Jennifer Russo). In all of his unscrupulous dealings side-kick Leporello (Pete Morgan) is an unwilling partner. Leporello is the maintenance man who carries a mop -- to clean-up Giovanni's messes. The plot is enough to make your head whirl in confusion.
Mozart's music is the real seducer in the show. Orchestra conductor and music director Bernard McDonald enriches these wonderful melodies with strong tempos and a powerful command of the top notch cast. Aani Bourassa as Donna Anna acts and sings the role of a woman enraged by the murder of her father. Her "Or sai chi l'onore" is one of the best scenes in the show. Jennifer Russo is less edgy as Donna Elvira and portrays the unrequited lover in a sane and stoic manner. Her arias such as "Non ti fidar" are just as dramatic. The third female role of Zerlina is beautifully sung by Katie Polit. A good actress, she is easily enticed by Giovanni but seductive in her aria "Beat me, Beat me" with Musetto. The show is sung in Italian but with these graphic scenes the story is easy to follow. Also, the English surtitles are flashed above the stage.
Peter Morgan makes an almost campy Leporella. Besides being well sung his "il catalogo e questo" is funny with his use of an Ipad as the book of conquests. Vander Plaats is solid and even as the statue who takes Giovanni to his just reward. Williams, the tenor, acted well but his two glorious arias were deleted, a real disappointment.
Crystal Manich's staging is imaginative with delightful touches of humor. Her use of the "minute" dance made the party scene an interesting fit with the action as does her attention to details. Ying-Jung Chen's bright costumes further jazz up the show -- Giovanni was in devilish white, Anna in a deep burgundy and black, and the Commendatore in a silvery gray cape.
Who thinks opera is user unfriendly for the average person! This unbelievably fine cast with these appealingly bright costumes and ingenious staging makes an entertaining 2 1/2 hour evening.
Hurray for all! Way to go!
"Don Giovanni" will be performed at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, Aug. 9-11, at Petoskey High School.