Godfather of All Dons

Everyone knows that Don Juan is a stud. So how come the protagonist in Mozart's sensual opera Don Giovanni -- "Don Juan" translated from Spanish into Italian -- is such a romantic washout? And what really happened between him and Donna Anna?

Find out the answer to these and other questions (or at least several well-informed opinions about them) during Sunday's "Opera Crossfire" -- a panel discussion that is part of the educational "Up on OperaTalk!" series presented by the Camerata and the Opera Society, affiliates of the Florida Grand Opera.

According to the Opera Society's Jan Solomon, the talk is aimed at opera newcomers and established aficionados alike: "It's light and informal." (It will be even more so after all the opera jawing concludes -- that's when aperitifs will be served.)

Set in seventeenth-century Spain, Mozart's 1787 Don Giovanni recounts the title character's amorous adventures as he flaunts the moral laws of the living world and risks his soul in the next one. During his quest for conquests, Don Giovanni is pursued by his spurned lover Donna Elvira; meanwhile he tries to court the already betrothed Zerlina. His immoral plan, however, is foiled by unrequited lust, enraged suitors, and a spirit from the grave.

The opera opened recently at the Dade County Auditorium and makes its way to the Broward Center for the Performing Arts on December 4 and 6.

Explains "Opera Crossfire" panelist Karl Hesser, director of artistic development for the Florida Grand Opera, "In terms of the actual controversy, there's not too much about the opera as a piece. There are arguments that take place about the characters. If Don Giovanni is so great, how come he strikes out with all of the women? Was Donna Anna raped, or was she going along with it? Was Donna Elvira pregnant? Crazy? There are different points of view about motivations and why the characters are pursuing them."

In order to analyze it all, Hesser will be joined on the panel by composer Marvin David Levy and former opera singers Richard Gill and Curtis Rice.

"The characters are not cut-and-dried," Hesser notes. "They are not cardboard. They evolve in the same way that some of the other great characters -- take Hamlet -- are always being reinterpreted. These characters' behaviors are examined in light of contemporary thinking and ways to make the piece speak to contemporary audiences."

And even if it wasn't continually updated based on modern mores, Hesser adds, the quality of the original work stands up: "That's why it is so timeless."

-- John Ferri

"Opera Crossfire" will be held at 2 p.m. on Sunday at the Josephine S. Leiser Opera Center, 221 SW 3rd St., Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $15 to $20; admission is free for students with identification. Call 954-728-9700 for more information.

 
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