Revenge, lust, love and loss: A night at the opera

Don Giovanni is a man hungry for what he wants most in the world: women. And he goes to great lengths to get what he wants. Photo by Yves Renaud

Don Giovanni brings the story of a womanizer’s crusade to Place des Arts

Don Giovanni is no gentleman. He is a smooth-talking womanizer on a crusade to bed as many women as he can, be they young, old, married or even unwilling.

Written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Don Giovanni premiered in Prague at the National Theater in 1787. The opera is sung in Italian with English and French surtitles, and lasts three hours. It tells the story of a man obsessed with loving as many women as he can, unrepentant and unaware of the path of destruction he leaves behind.

The opera starts with Don Giovanni (Gordon Bintner) attempting to force himself on Donna Anna (Emily Dorn). Desperate, Donna Anna cries for help. Her father, the Commendatore (Alain Coulombe) comes rushing in. Drawing his sword, he challenges Don Giovanni, who pulls out a gun and shoots the Commendatore point blank in the chest, murdering him.  Upon seeing her father’s body, Donna Anna swears to get revenge on her assailant.

This opening scene sets the tone for the rest of the opera. Don Giovanni is a ruthless womanizer, using his charm to get what he wants. He doesn’t care about class, weight, height or looks. So long as they are women, he is attracted to them. His assistant, Leporello (Daniel Okulitch), keeps a detailed notebook of his conquests: 1,003 women in Spain alone.

While Don Giovanni might like to bed women, he certainly doesn’t keep in touch. While lounging around a café, he spies a woman angrily searching for the lover who scorned her. Sauntering over, he tells Leporello he wishes to ‘console’ her, to which Leporello scoffs. He’s clearly done this trick before. The woman, however,  is Donna Elvira and the lover she is looking for is Don Giovanni. She reprimands him for leaving her  broken-hearted and pregnant.

For the rest of the opera, Don Giovanni continues on his quest for conquests, instructing Leporello to keep the notebook handy—but ultimately, not even Don Giovanni can outrun his sins forever. While he is busy chasing every woman he meets, a group, led by Donna Anna, is plotting Giovanni’s downfall.

The opera is a cautionary tale, in that it warns sinners that eventually their crimes will catch up to them. After years of lying, cheating and abusing women, Don Giovanni’s injustices finally catch up with him, as the Commendatore comes back from the grave and asks him to repent. Upon Don Giovanni’s refusal, the Commendatore claims his soul and casts him into the depths of hell.

The opera deals with very real and serious topics: revenge, murder and sexual abuse. The serious nature, however, is offset slightly by Leporello and his interactions with other characters. His wit and innocent charm, as well as his dejected nature towards his master’s activities, counter-balance the heaviness of the rest of the opera.

Don Giovanni will be performed at Place des Arts on Nov. 17 and 19 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at just under $60 for the show and are available on the Place des Arts website.

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