"Don Giovanni" opens at the IU Musical Arts Center


Kaitlyn Johnson as Donna Anna kneels over Peter Volpe, playing Commendatore, in "Don Giovanni." The opera will be playing at the Musical Arts Center on September 15, 16, 22 and 23 at 7:30 p.m. Marlie Bruns

Among sex, singing and sword-fighting, Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” is widely considered “the perfect opera,” and it is opening at the Musical Arts Center on behalf of the Jacobs School of Music on Friday. 

“Don Giovanni” follows its namesake as Don Giovanni seduces a string of women and avoids the consequences of his hedonistic lifestyle. Known as a drama giocoso, it contains elements of both drama and comedy.

“As far as Mozart’s operas go, it's incredibly entertaining,” Director David Lefkowich said. “The serious parts are really serious, but we laugh at the situation that’s happening. There’s not a lot of operas that toe that line so beautifully.”

The show is double-cast, meaning two sets of actors will alternate performance nights. With only a two-week rehearsal process, Lefkowich left much character interpretation to the actors, Bruno Sandes, the actor playing Don Giovanni, said.

“He has given us freedom to take any kind of approach to the characters,” Sandes said. “You’re gonna see two shows. They’ll probably be very different in the way every single character is portrayed.”

Mozart wrote “Don Giovanni” late in his life. The show, written in 1787, contains areas where one actor sings alone, but there are also times when an ensemble sings together, something uncommon to operas from this time period. 

“You can feel the layers and the age and the wisdom he’s accumulated,” Lefkowich said. “This one feels more mature than his earlier works.”

The opera runs just less than three hours. Though the opera is long, the music and story keep things interesting for the audience, Lefkowich said.

“Mozart sets up some incredible themes at the beginning, but it takes a little time for these to develop,” Lefkowich said. “When you get to that last finale and you hear the culmination of everything that has come before, it’s jaw-droppingly incredible.”

The music is as important to the audience as it is to the characters. Don Giovanni uses music and singing in his seduction tactics. 

“He plays with words; he uses charm, but when he needs to go farther, he uses music,” Sandes said.

Three characters in the show are victims of Don Giovanni’s sexual advances. Lefkowich said this show does not sweep sexual assault under the rug but puts it in a position of acknowledgment.

“What this story shows is that being a victim does not make you weak,” Lefkowich said. “We want to empower them to overcome what has happened, instead of suffering alongside them.”

Though originally in Italian, the story is made understandable by supertitles displayed above the set as well as the actors' performances. The cast worked to make sure the story is paramount above everything, Lefkowich said.

“If I can make the audience forget about their problems for two minutes and be with me in the show with Don Giovanni, part of my goal is achieved,” Sandes said.

This uncut production of “Don Giovanni” includes every scene and piece of music from Mozart’s original writing, as well as musical lines repeated for clarity. Whether experienced in opera or a novice, there is something interesting to hook into, Lefkowich said.

“The quality of the show, the singers, the directors, the orchestra, the maestro, they are some of the things you can only see in some of the best theaters in the world,” Sandes said.

“Don Giovanni” runs from Sept. 15 to 23. Tickets start at $10.

This story has been updated at 1:53 p.m. Sept. 15 to reflect a correction. "Don Giovanni" will open at the Musical Arts Center and not at the IU Auditorium as previously stated. This story was again updated Sept. 18 to correct the ticket prices. 

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