Is it a rollicking sexual comedy or a dark moral lesson?
In 2001 at the Skylight Opera Theatre, director Paula Suozzi made it a naughty tale of modern, coked-up decadence.
It's done in period costume, with minimal staging designed by Kris Stone.
"The setting came mostly from John [director John Hoomes]," Stone said. "He's saying the story is universal, and that it happens again and again. We didn't feel that we needed to spell it out. We wanted to make it epic, at the edge of the universe, as opposed to grounding it in a particular locale. There's an element of the supernatural, too - the sense that something is strange, that things aren't as they seem, that the whole world is out of skew."
Hoomes, in turn, said
"I'm not a big fan of ultra-grim 'Giovannis,' " he said. "I'm not sure that's what the music says. This opera walks an odd line - sometimes it steps over into comedy or drama when you're not really looking. There is cruelty in humor, sometimes."
After the premiere, Strini called it A living, breathing 'Don Giovanni'.
Director John Hoomes also had gloomy Penitentes wandering across the background for no discernible reason. During the overture, he went too far by making the Don a serial killer. Otherwise, Hoomes gave his singing actors every chance to succeed, and they did.
We attended last night's performance. I agree the the singing was very good, as good across the cast as I've heard in Milwaukee. Eduardo Chama was most impressive as Leporello. The major flaw is Hoomes's contradictions. With the Don a killer in the overture, the Penitentes made sense. As I saw it, Hoomes had Donna Anna dissembling about whether she was seduced or raped. There might be potential for a Don Giovanni in which all are deceivers in their own way, in which the everyone on stage in the moralizing conclusion has learned a personal lesson from the Don's fate. Hoomes takes a sometimes grim, if not "ultra-grim", approach, then at the very end throws in a twist to say it was all a rollicking sexual comedy. By then, it's too late. The Skylight's production was better conceived, even if the Florentine's is a better performance.