Don Giovanni
Music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte
Illustration by CAP Designs, Chris Purcell

March 25 - 27 at 8 PM
March 28 7 at 2 PM
Mendelssohn Theatre

background | press release | synopsis

program | designs | photographs

Background Information
From the Director
Don Juan: A budding love holds inexplicable delights, and all of love's delights are found in change. One can almost savor the sensation of a young beauty's heart melting under a hundred compliments, of the progress one is making, day after day, in combating with tears and sighs the innocent modesty of a soul struggling not to be taken, and of the success one has had in vanquishing her qualms and in guiding her gently to where we have longed for her to be. But when the time comes where one is the master, nothing more can be said, nothing more can be wished for, the beauty of passion is over, and we fall asleep in love's tranquility, until some new object rouses our desires and offers our heart the winning charms of a new conquest yet to be made.
- "Don Juan" by Moliere, translated and adapted by Richard Nelson

Don Juan: Hypocrisy is a vice in fashion, and whatever is in fashion passes for virtue...take a good look at all those who under such a guise have hid their true nature, and have veiled their corruption, their greed, their cruelty, and decadence, and incompetence, and cowardice and ambition; and who with religious smiles and religious airs have shielded themselves from being seen for whom and what they really are.
- "Don Juan" by Moliere, translated and adapted by Richard Nelson

"Women sense that I search out the beauty that dwells within them."
- Johnny Depp in "Don Juan DeMarco"

  Press Release
ANN ARBOR - The School of Music Opera Theatre presents one of the world's greatest operas, "Don Giovanni." Composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart with a libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte, Don Giovanni plays March 25 -27 at 8PM and March 28 at 2PM at the Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre in Ann Arbor. Directed by guest artist Tim Ocel, the performance features the University Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by School of Music Professor Martin Katz. The opera will be sung in Italian with projected English translations.

"Don Giovanni," a "dramma giocoso" in two acts, received its premiere on October 28, 1787, at the National Theatre in Prague. The opera featured many innovations - "dramma giocoso" means "happy tragedy" or "tragic comedy" which was a term coined by Mozart, the overture pre-quotes the music from the opera's finale (which was not done again until Verdi's "La Traviata"), and an overture that has no finish but dissolves into the show itself. While the Prague performance was a complete success, the Vienna premiere in May 1788 was only moderately well received. It was only when "Don Giovanni" left the continent, beginning with performances at the King's Theatre in London (1817) and subsequent performances in Philadelphia (1818), that it began to gain in popularity. The first New York production of "Don Giovanni" (under the title "The Libertine") was held at the Park Theatre in 1826. It was performed at the suggestion of librettist-turned-impresario Lorenzo da Ponte, who was then living in the United States. "Don Giovanni" is the second oldest Italian opera in the North American repertory (the oldest is "The Marriage of Figaro"). "Don Giovanni's" popularity has never diminished to this day and it is rightly regarded as one of the greatest operas of all time.

The opera is based on the story of the libertine Don Juan. Don Juan first appeared as a literary character in 17th century Europe in the play by Tirso de Molina entitled, "El Burlador de Sevilla y Convidado de Piedra" ("The Trickster of Seville and the Stone Guest"). The story has been told in various forms by many of the world's great writers, including Moliere, Carlo Goldoni, and Thomas Shadwell. "Giovanni is a social anarchist. The story continues to resonate with modern audiences because we still have social outlaws," states director Tim Ocel. "The opera stays fresh as each society finds itself mirrored in the story; emotionally connecting to the music and finding new ways to view the Don Juan character."

Set in Seville, Spain, the opera tells the tale of Don Giovanni, who is a reckless seducer of women, and of his comic and perpetually ill-treated valet Leporello. Caught in the act of seduction, the Don accidentally kills Donna Anna's father who comes to defend his daughter's honor. Don Giovanni is pursued, and, after a series of misdeeds and attempted seductions, he meets unexpectedly with the specter of the murdered father in the form of a statue while hiding in a churchyard. The Don invites the statue to supper, and the statue accepts. At dinner, the statue exacts his revenge as he drags the defiant Don into hell. The opera concludes as the Don's victims gather to plan their future and provide a moral to the story.

Ocel, who has directed extensively at various Shakespearean Festivals, finds a number of parallels between the Mozart's "dramma giocoso" and Shakespearean comedies. "In a comedy, something tragic usually happens at the beginning of the play that sets the world off-balance and the journey of the play is about returning to a balanced state. The world of "Don Giovanni" is a dangerous and suspect place, indeed it is still dangerous at the end of the work, but balance has been restored. The real interest of the opera is not in the central character of Don Giovanni, but the havoc he creates in this community and how the community finds a way to continue... though it may be damaged."

Martin Katz, who also conducted the last production of Don Giovanni at the School of Music in 1991, acknowledges the challenge and genius of Mozart's groundbreaking composition. "With Mozart there is simply no place to hide vocally. Any detail not attended to, any imperfection will be heard loudly and clearly. The "manners" with which we must perform this genre of music are rigorous and very demanding. Donna Anna's first aria, "Or sai chi l'onore," is an enormous challenge for stamina and high notes, but the recitative before it makes the experience really unique in all of Mozart's music. Leporello's aria, "Madamina," is a wonderful piece and Zerlina's arias provide lovely moments - her brightness and sweetness are very refreshing in such a dark comedy/tragedy as this."

Joining Ocel and Katz on the artistic team is costume designer Christianne Myers ("The Nutcracker," "Hamlet," "Xerxes"), lighting designer Rob Murphy ("The Nutcracker," "Hamlet," "Xerxes") both faculty members in the Dept. of Theatre and Drama. Guest scenic designer Shana McKay Burns' work was last seen at UM in "Children of Eden" and "Good News!" Assistant conductor, Laura Jackson, will conduct the performance on Saturday, March 27.

Ticket prices are $20 and $15 reserved seating with students only $8 with ID. Tickets are available in person at the League Ticket Office, located within the Michigan League. The Ticket Office is open from 9am-5pm, Monday through Friday and 10am-1pm on Saturday. Order by phone at (734) 764-2538. All major credit cards are accepted. Tickets may also be ordered online at The Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre, located at 911 N. University, is handicapped accessible and equipped with an infrared listening system for hearing enhancement.
# # #
- Kerianne M. Tupac

Act I - Leporello is keeping watch as Don Giovanni attempts to seduce Donna Anna. When confronted by the Commendatore, her father, Don Giovanni reluctantly duels and slays the older man. Don Ottavio, who is Donna Anna's betrothed, tries to comfort her and swears to avenge her father's death. Having escaped, Giovanni and Leporello coincidentally meet Donna Elvira, one of Giovanni's abandoned conquests who is seeking her own revenge. Don Giovanni quietly slips away as Leporello lists his master's accomplishments. Near Giovanni's palace, he and Leporello come upon a wedding party. Giovanni attempts to seduce the bride, Zerlina, but she is rescued by Elvira. Meanwhile, Donna Anna and Don Ottavio arrive to ask Don Giovanni's help in finding the Commendatore's murderer. As Giovanni leaves, Donna Anna recognizes the voice of her seducer and her father's murderer. Don Giovanni gives a party for the peasants, at which Elvira, Anna, and Ottavio arrive masked. His attempt to rape Zerlina is foiled. Elvira, Anna, and Ottavio accuse him of murder, but Giovanni again escapes.

ACT II - In order to seduce Elvira's maid, Giovanni switches clothes with Leporello. Elvira, mistaking Leporello for Giovanni, forgives him and goes off with him. Masetto arrives in search of Giovanni, but Giovanni beats him. Zerlina arrives to comfort the wounded groom. Leporello's disguise is discovered by Anna, Ottavio, Elvira, and Zerlina, and they berate the servant. Ottavio repledges love and vengeance, but Elvira vows to save him. Giovanni and Leporello meet in a churchyard, where the statue of the slain Commendatore speaks. Giovanni orders Leporello to invite the statue to supper. As Giovanni dines, Elvira arrives and begs him to repent. Her efforts fail, and as she leaves, the statue appears. He orders Giovanni to repent. He refuses, and is damned to Hell. In the epilogue, all the others listen to Leporello's tale of Giovanni's end. Each person speaks of future plans, and we are exhorted to learn our lesson from Giovanni's fate.

Click here to view the Don Giovanni program as a PDF file

Production Designs
Scenic Designs by Shana McKay Burns

Production Photographs
Thursday, March 25 & Saturday, March 27

Valerie Ogbonnaya as Donna Elvira Joseph T. Roberts as Leporello

Jo Ellen Miller as Zerlina and David Dillard as Don Giovanni David Dillard, Kelliann McCullough as Donna Anna, Valerie Ogbonnaya, and Michael Fabiano as Don Ottavio

David Dillard Kelliann McCullough and Michael Fabiano

Jo Ellen Miller and David Wilson as Masetto Caitlyn Nicole Thomson and

Joseph T. Roberts and David Dillard David Dillard

Kelliann McCullough Valerie Ogbonnaya

Kenneth Kellogg as Commendatore Kenneth Kellogg and David Dillard

Friday, March 26 & Sunday, March 28

Megan Besley as Donna Anna and Sean Panikkar as Don Ottavio Jessica Medoff as Donna Elvira

Travis Pratt as Masetto Eduardo Chama as Leporello

Paul Max Tipton as Don Giovanni Megan Besley, Paul Max Tipton, and Sean Panikkar

Sean Panikkar Eduardo Charma and Paul Max Tipton

Travis Pratt and Kelly Daniel-Decker as Zerlina Paul Max Tipton

Eduardo Charma and Kenneth Kellogg Megan Besley and Kenneth Kellogg