A handful of Corban students opted for a different Halloween adventure by going to see Portland Opera’s production of “Don Giovanni” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart on Oct. 31. Although the production garnered mixed reviews from the students — some loving it, and some loathing it — the erotic, powerful and intensely striking opera was something extremely characteristic of the city of Portland.
From a musical standpoint, the opera could not have been better. The musical genius was at its fullest in both orchestral and singing form. Even though two of the main singers were sick and sang only half as well as they could have, the production was an astounding three and a half hours of pure talent.
There is a reason why this opera has been around for over 225 years. Something about the characters, plot and presentation strikes deep into the hearts of an audience. Don Giovanni transcends the common phrase of “a ladies’ man” by his actions of rape, murder and home-wrecking. Compared to his philosophical contemporary Faust in Goethe’s or Marlowe’s “Faust,” Don Giovanni flirts with the devil and the boundaries of a man in much the same way. He is even summoned to Hell itself by the man he murders at the beginning of the opera and, just like Faust, he chooses to remain unrepentant and partakes in Hell’s horrors. The similarities draw the same moral conclusion: choosing an unrepentant and pleasurable life has its eternal drawbacks.
But the opera is more complicated than that. Although Don Giovanni is the protagonist no one is rooting for, he is the character that brings the most joy. Even with all the grief he causes, when he dies, no one is happy. Don Giovanni gave the characters all something to unite against, but they did not form any real relationships with each other. The end leaves a very hopeless portrayal of their lives thereafter.
And yet, the opera’s inclusion of Christian allusions was haunting and strange. The minimalist stage included a neon cross on the left which lit up whenever something immoral happened, whether it was a murder or a seduction. Even more haunting was the smear of red under the cross that remained on the wall after Don Giovanni’s murder of the Commendatore. The party Don Giovanni hosts toward the end of Act I resembled a strange sort of prayer vigil in a Catholic ceremony.
Being highly sexual and having a complete lack of a redemptive theme, “Don Giovanni” was not enjoyable. However, not all entertainment must be enjoyable, and for a first-time operagoer who may not appreciate Mozart as much as the next person, the take-away value of seeing a high-quality production was worth it.