- Resident Artists
We are in the thick of things over here. Don G -- this is the colloquial way we all seem to be referring to the show around these parts -- moved over to the Keller last Wednesday and Thursday, and we have been hot in tech mode ever since. During this week of technical and dress rehearsals, those directly involved with the production pretty much eat, sleep, and breathe whatever show we're doing. Many of the production staff arrive to the theater by 9 every morning and don't get home until midnight -- or later. During the day they focus the lights cue by cue; they fix places on the set that might need reinforcing or repainting; they modify props based on what has and hasn't worked in rehearsal. (For example, a recent comment from our director in our post-rehearsal notes session: "The blood is all wrong. And there needs to be more of it.")
The daytime tech hours are long and in many cases tedious, but extremely necessary. Although there is no cast on stage, it's where a lot of the nuts-and-bolts 'behind the scenes' work gets done. Then, in the evenings, we run the show. Principals, supers, and chorus arrive; as the nights progress, more and more of the costumes, wigs, and makeup are incorporated. It's in tech rehearsals that -- hopefully! -- most of the kinks are ironed out. Quick costume changes (simply called 'quick changes') get rehearsed and modified accordingly. Singers get accustomed to the real lighting onstage, as well as to the actual props (rather than rehearsal stand-ins). Entrances and exits are rehearsed and altered, depending on how long it takes someone to walk through the wings (difficult to time in the rehearsal studio, where, of course, there are no wings). And so on. A million tiny details. As for me, I spend my weekend evenings in the supertext booth, running the titles along with the show as we go, jotting down problematic slides (too big, too small, misspelled, badly worded, badly cued, etc) and hopefully editing on the fly.
Spending my recent nights in the booth has made me focus a lot on the libretto of Giovanni. I can't really watch -- with so much recit, I'm too busy 'pushing the button' -- so I have to just listen and read along. As a result, one thing has become really remarkable to me: this opera, which premiered 225 years ago, might as well have been written last week, for how closely its characters resemble modern people with modern problems. I mean, you could turn on the TV today and, except for the language, see essentially the same plot on any number of shows.
Don Giovanni: THAT. GUY. You know that guy. The slick womanizer. The dude you know you should hate because, let's face it, he's a sleaze, but somehow he's also so compelling that despite your better judgment you kind of find him incredibly attractive anyway? That guy.
Leporello: The wingman.
Donna Anna: The girl who can't get a damn break. She nearly gets raped at the beginning and then her dad gets killed, and she essentially spends the rest of the show trying to get over that, and not doing very well. But who can blame her?
Don Ottavio: The ineffectual boyfriend. He means well but it's clear he doesn't really understand how to be compassionate towards Donna Anna so he keeps telling her what she wants to hear -- which is that he's totally gonna get revenge on that Giovanni guy, SERIOUSLY -- because he loves her. But are we ever really convinced that he's actually going to get that revenge?
Zerlina: That sweet girl from down the street who was mostly content with her life until this hunky, well-off dude and put ideas in her head. I think if you popped Zerlina into a modern-day scenario, she'd be that character who was really sweet and obedient in high school, only to turn into a crazy party girl in college. You know the one.
Masetto: Poor Masetto. He sees right through Giovanni, even though Zerlina doesn't at first. Then he gets beaten up. He gets the girl in the end but it's hard to feel good about it. Nice guys really do finish last?
And: Donna Elvira. You guys, it's actually Donna Elvira I can't get enough of right now. I find her character to be possibly the most compelling one on stage, except maybe when Don Giovanni is onstage without pants. (Yes, this happens.)
The character of Donna Elvira is so complex, and so fluid. She's that crazy ex who doesn't realize it's really over this time (and that, frankly, it wasn't really anything in the first place). But she's also often the shrewdest one on the stage, the only one who sees straight through Giovanni and his exploits. She really gets him, and yet at the same time she's completely ready to throw all that over every time she thinks she has a shot at being with him. I sympathize with Elvira so much throughout the show. Her final aria, Mi tradi, is so, so human.
That ungrateful soul betrayed me and left me miserable.
Though I’m betrayed, though I’m abandoned, I still feel pity for him.
That ungrateful soul betrayed me and caused me such misery.
When I feel my torment, my heart craves vengeance.
But when I imagine his fate, my heart bleeds.
She knows he's a jerk who's going to end up in hell, but still, despite herself, she loves him. Who hasn't been there once or twice?!
It's Elvira who, I think, really drives home for me how absolutely modern all of this is. Somehow, I feel simultaneously both comfort and despair that the things Mozart's librettist, Lorenzo da Ponte, chose to write about 225 years ago are still absolutely true of people today. It astounds me! Giovanni says things about Elvira that you still hear ALL THE TIME.
"Don't listen to her, she's crazy."
"I'm telling her that I care about her because I'm really nice and I don't want to hurt her feelings."
1787 and 2012 only feel far from each other, but I don't think they are at all.
Oh! I forgot one:
Commendatore: Something straight out of The Walking Dead
So that's what we've been doing this week. The show looks great. It's a perfect Halloween show, too: my favorite part of the show right now are the two moments when the Commendatore is reanimated long enough to demand that Giovanni repent. SO. AWESOME. Also, I get to make backstage noises again for this show (as I did in Figaro) -- a deafening backstage knock that you should hopefully believe is coming from the Commendatore himself -- and I am having a great time with it.
We open on Friday. Toi toi toi to all the cast and crew, who are doing a spectacular job.
We love this character diagram by Natalie Karcher, student from West Linn High School. It really helps us keep all of Giovanni's conquests in order. Thanks Natalie!