The show’s namesake is a manipulative, lying, abusive, rich and aristocratic playboy. The last time the Houston Grand Opera performed “Don Giovanni” was in in 2013. Since then, the #MeToo movement has ignited a cultural discussion on consent, harassment, gender dynamics, power and privilege.
There is a debate on whether this opera glorifies or condemns Don Giovanni’s behavior. The opera is composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and the libretti or lyrics are written by Lorenzo Da Ponte. Could Mozart, born 263 years ago, be progressive? The Don spends his entire life consuming food, wine and women as he pleases. We see him escape punishment through his wit, but he can’t escape death. Mozart’s justice to the character is not in this world, but the next. He goes to Hell. One clue to Mozart’s position is that after the anti-hero dies, the opera ends in the key of D Major, which is one of rejoicing and victory.
Ryan McKinny plays Don Giovanni with confidence, cunningness, and cockiness in his every his every step. Melody Moore plays Donna Elvira and walks the line of her emotional turmoil between hating Giovanni and devising his downfall and still being in love with him. All the performers sang with the depth, passion and grace that is expected from a world-class opera performance.
The set, lighting and video design by Es Devin, Bruno Poet and Luke Halls respectively, is visually stunning and mesmerizing. The elaborate revolving and shifting two-story set stimulated Giovanni’s mansion and other locations with the lighting and video projections shifted the audience into other realms and light and dark moods.
The Houston Grand Opera is performing “Don Giovanni” at the Wortham Theater Center through May 5. Discounted tickets are available for $15 to $25 for first-time attendees and opera-goers under 25-years-old. Street parking in downtown is free after 6 p.m. and all day Sunday. With a run time of about three, it is a marathon of a performance even with the Houston Grand Opera cutting some musical scores out. It is sung in Italian with projected English translation.