don giovanni

On Wednesday afternoon I received a last-minute invitation to see Don Giovanni at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, literally a few blocks up my street. One of the performers has been staying at my friend E.'s place, through airbnb (an absolute goldmine for downtowners with big lofts), and she gave him four tickets to come see the show.

We met for dinner at Kendall's beforehand, which, no complaints about the food or service, but maybe not the sexiest ambience and crowd? I got there earlier than everyone else, so I had plenty of time to be snoopy and rude and bloggery while I sipped my Pinot Noir:



Median age: coma.

I don't think I've ever posted a cell phone mirror pic; there's no light in my apartment and they come out awful - but I never have an excuse to wear this amazing Olga Kapustina dress I got years ago, so here's me modeling that off:


This was my first opera, and it kicked my ass a little bit. In some ways it was fascinating and captivating, and in others, extremely challenging. My takeaway from the experience is this, and I'm going to go out on a limb and generalize here: Americans are not oriented towards opera. Not musically, not culturally, not linguistically, and not temporally. So it's difficult to connect with the material, unless you're someone who already has an interest in opera itself, in Italian, or even just in classical music.

I love live theater. I love musicals especially. But most theater I've seen has two things to offer me which this opera did not: more involved visual engagement by way of set design and scene changes, and deeper intellectual engagement by way of a complex, nuanced plot. Don Giovanni had only enough setting on stage as to be structurally and geographically representative. Simple backdrops and scrims. That's it. You've got nothing to look at for 2+ hours but the seven or so people singing their hearts out (though some of the costumes were lovely, and the way they coordinated with those simple backdrops was beautifully considered). And in terms of plot? Very basic melodrama. The amount of music relative to action is overwhelming. Very little happens, but very much noise is made about it.

It's not for the attention deficient.

What I did enjoy, at least for the first half hour, was identifying the various, classic archetypes: the lothario, the long-suffering servant, the wronged woman. There's always something charming about seeing these tropes trotted out in live theater, writ large and playful with exaggerated stage business, facial expressions, gestures. And underlined, of course, by orchestral punctuation. That's a timeless sort of fun, and makes you feel like a groundling. Ah yes, here's the bit where the master abuses his domestic. We boo. And now, the arrogant nobleman gets his come-uppence. We cheer.

But beyond these cues, there was very little in the performance to which I could relate. The music, swelling as it was with painstakingly composed pathos (it's Mozart! I had context!), didn't affect me. Well, other than as a soporific.

Here's me, all excited before it started (trying to get the ceiling in the shot, but mostly just getting omgnostrils):



Afterward, I was...not quite so perky.

Still. I'd go again. And I want to. But I'd definitely familiarize myself with the music beforehand, in the same way I do with concerts and festivals. I'd get much more out of it then.

A couple more pics; our front row balcony seats were really fantastic:



So, final score. Don Giovanni: 1. Ellie: 0.

I'll win the next one though!