Opera is not as high falutin’ as you might think.
Before I took on the glamorous career of journalist, I worked for several years as a home care aid for low income elderly people. It was an important service, performing basic household chores and taking seniors shopping so they could continue to live in their own homes, but it was not particularly mentally stimulating. If you’ve scrubbed one toilet you’ve pretty much scrubbed them all.
I did a lot of driving on that job, both between clients and in running errands and I found refuge from the tedium by listening to the CBC on the radio. This was in an area where Victoria was closer than Seattle. I didn’t know anything about classical music, but I knew that listening to it made me feel connected to something beyond my small world, something beautiful and yet accessible with just the turn of a dial.
That experience came to mind this weekend as I attended opening night of Mozart’s comic opera, “Don Giovanni” at the Seattle Opera.
Just the word “opera” often elicits a groan — opera is stuffy, stupid, boring and in a foreign language. You have to be some kind of egghead pseudo-intellectual to enjoy it. You have to get all dressed up in clothes that are uncomfortable and make you look like a penguin. That seems to be the consensus among many people, and I’m not just singling out Kitsap County residents.
Granted, opera does not enjoy the same rabid, er, avid fan base as say, the Seahawks. There are no “12th Man” throngs of opera fans riding the ferries from Bainbridge Island or Bremerton, lined up in the snack bar for white wine and popcorn, decked out in “Go Opera!” jerseys. Opera doesn’t even have team colors, other than perhaps dress black.
Still, if we look at the characters and plot of “Don Giovanni” we can see some pretty recognizable faces.
Seattle Opera chose to set this production in an ambiguous time period, part pre-revolutionary France, part modern. Giovanni wears black leather pants and at times a black leather trench coat, while other characters are dressed either for a Parisian ball or a sock hop. The intent was to show that the story was timeless (although some opera-goers found the mish-mash of styles distracting).
The lead, who can hardly be called a hero, is a cad in any century. He thinks he’s God’s gift to women, but in the opera he does not succeed in “scoring” with any of his seduction targets. He’s not unlike someone you can see any weekend in a bar in, for example, Bremerton.
Leporello is Don Giovanni’s servant, or in modern terms, his wing man. He often sets women up so Giovanni can move in for the “kill.” He also deflects their ire when they come looking for Giovanni with murder in mind. He even literally keeps score of Giovanni’s conquests. Occasionally he is able to pick up one of Giovanni’s cast offs and in one of the opera’s most humorous scenes, he pretends to be Giovanni while his master provides the voice over.
There are several scenes in which Giovanni does a masterful job of dodging and weaving between jilted lovers and their husbands/boyfriends. It’s very much like the “plot” of the supposedly unscripted Jerry Springer Show, sans paternity testing.
Tickets for “Don Giovanni” are not cheap, but then neither are sports tickets. Now that the Seahawks have tanked, why not check out opera? Just don’t do the wave.
If you don’t want to hassle with the ferry, traffic and parking in Seattle, Kitsap County has its own opera company, the aptly named Kitsap Opera, directed by Leone Cottrell-Adkins. The annual fall production features professional opera singers, many of whom are on their way up. What’s Up will keep you posted on fund-raising concerts and dinners leading up to the main production.
Kitsap Beat is a weekly feature of What’s Up, the Kitsap News Group Arts and Entertainment section. Address questions, comments or kudos to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (360) 779-4464.