Preview: The Core Ensemble Presents Don Giovanni

Mozart meets the #MeToo Movement in The Core Ensemble’s innovative adaption of Mozart’s classic 1787 opera, Don Giovanni.

In fact, Mozart  was centuries ahead of his time with his tale of sex, sin and murder.

Based on the legends of Don Juan, a fictional libertine and seducer, Don Giovanni (alternate title Il dissoluto punito ossia il Don Giovanni), is an opera in two acts with music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Italian libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte. The Prague Italian opera premiered the opera at the National Theater (of Bohemia), now called the Estates Theatre, on October 29, 1787.

Da Ponte’s libretto was billed as a dramma giocoso, a mixture of serious and comic action. Mozart entered the work into his catalogue as an opera buffa. Although sometimes classified as comic, it actually blends comedy, melodrama and supernatural elements. The opera’s subject is Don Juan, the notorious libertine of fiction, and his eventual descent into hell.

Don Giovanni was an unusually intense work and not entirely understood in Mozart’s own time. Within a generation, however, it was recognized as one of the greatest of all operas. In fact, many opera aficionados claimed it is Mozart’s most brilliant opera.

A wealthy Casanova who takes advantage of everyone in his life, Giovanni’s crimes hide behind a mask of success, until he encounters something he cannot conquer with brutish behavior.

Monika Elmont (Elvira's Body) Sarah Jane Vavrin (Elvira's Voice)

Monika Elmont (Elvira’s Body) Sarah Jane Vavrin (Elvira’s Voice)

Combining one of the best scores ever written with a touch of contemporary activism, In Core Ensemble’s adaption of this classic opera, the timeless and timely story brings voice to the women who stand together against sexual assault by men like Giovanni.

The Core Ensemble sets the story in a corporate business office where Giovanni is the CEO. This production breaks away from the elitism of Opera while maintaining the brilliance of Mozart’s original score. Each character is brought to life by two performers: a classically trained opera singer and an actor. Jimmi Cook stars as Giovanni, the only character played by a single singer/actor.

Directed by Julia Holden Hunkins, the Core’s adaptation doesn’t shy away from the reality of sexual assault and body politics, but emphasizes the way that social status and gender function in today’s workplace. With an emphasis on the power of the #MeToo Movement, the  production gives weight and dimension to women’s voices, as they band together to bring down their oppressor.

Mozart’s operatic tale has been told for hundreds of years. The plot revolves around Don Giovanni, a selfish and promiscuous nobleman, who gets what he wants by using brute force, manipulation. and his status in society. In the end, he is dragged to hell as punishment for his villainous sins.

He’s a wealthy Casanova who takes advantage of everyone in his life.

A rake, a libertine–in some circles called a cockhound–Don Giovanni is a Casanova who takes advantage of everyone in his life. Young, arrogant, and sexually promiscuous, he seduces, abuses, and outrages all. That is, until he encounters something he cannot kill, beat up, dodge, or outwit. His crimes are masked behind his success . . . until the women of the workplace band together to bring him down.

Angel Zamorano Diaz (Cammendatore's voice) Garret Lander (Cammendatore's body)

Angel Zamorano Diaz (Cammendatore’s voice) Garret Lander (Cammendatore’s body)

Mozart deftly underscores the action with his music. For example, in an aria midway through Act I (the “Catalogue Aria”), Giovanni’s servant, Leporello, reads delightedly from his little black book, listing the many women who have been conquered by Don Giovanni in each of several nations—1,003 women in Spain alone. Mozart matches musical characteristics to various adjectives, so that petite women are portrayed with short notes and ladies of more grandeur are described with longer note values.

Other clever musical touches can be found in the well-known and probably the most beloved aria “Là ci darem la mano” in Don Giovanni. As the Act One duet begins, Giovanni and his prey have alternate verses, but, as the conquest ensues, they begin to blend in harmony, the music reflecting their emotional unity.

The opera attracted prestigious cultural admirers. Søren Kierkegaard, Danish philosopher, theologian, poet, social critic and religious author, greatly admired Mozart’s opera. In a long essay, he wrote that that “among all classic works, Don Giovanni stands highest.”  French composer Charles Gounod wrote that Mozart’s Don Giovanni is “a work without blemish, of uninterrupted perfection.”

The finale, in which Giovanni refuses to repent, inspired philosophical and artistic fodder for numerous writers, including George Bernard Shaw. In Man and Superman, he parodied the opera, (with explicit mention of the Mozart score for the finale scene between the Commendatore and Don Giovanni).

French novelist Gustave Flaubert called Don Giovanni, along with Hamlet and the sea, “the three finest things God ever made.” Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky regarded Don Giovanni and its composer with awe. During a visit to Paris in June 1886, Tchaikovsky remarked when looking at the manuscript of Don Giovanni that he was “in the presence of divinity.”

Note: The Core Ensemble unites tradition with innovation to produce invigorating new performance events which celebrate the individual, centralize artists in the process of creation, and engage curious and unexpected audiences in Seattle. They have been producing together for five years.

The Core Ensemble’s production of Don Giovanni runs August 19th – 29th at 12th Ave Arts – Studio Theatre, times vary, tickets $20 presale, $10 students, available at (800) 838-3006.  Aug. 20, Don Giovanni Opening Night Party and Gala (show 6pm-8pm, followed by party and gala), general Gala tickets $50 plus service and fee, VIP Gala tickets, $100 plus service and fee. tickets, click here

The Roles
Don Giovanni. baritone
Il Commendatore (Don Pedro), bass
Donna Anna, his daughter, soprano
Don Ottavio, her fiancé, tenor
Donna Elvira, a lady abandoned by Don Giovanni, soprano
Leporello, Don Giovanni’s servant, bass
Masetto, a peasant, bass
Zerlina, Masetto’s fiancée, soprano

Cast of Don Giovanni

Don Giovanni – Jimmi Cook

Leporello – Dan White
Elvira – Sarah Jane Vavrin
Anna / Zerlina – Ariel Yang
Ottavio – Alexander Gallo
Cammendaore / Masetto – Angel Zamorano Diaz

Leporello – Spencer Funk
Elvira – Monika Elmont
Anna – Tajah Lee
Zerlina – Chrysanthemum Binayug
Ottavio – Nathan Wornian
Cammendatore/Masetto – Garrett Lander

The Production Team
Director: Julia Holden-Hunkins
Music Direction: Yuly Kopkin
Adaption: The Core Ensemble


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Starla Smith

Starla Smith

Starla Smith is a career journalist, writing features for such publications as The New Yorker, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Daily News, The Des Moines Register, Vibe and a prize-winning Gannett Newspaper. She helped launch Theater Week Magazine and eventually became its publisher. As a regular contributor to Playbill, her interviews and photos were featured in Playbill and Playbill-on-line. Smith was featured in the New York Times "Style" section for her "Word Portraits," specialized tributes, speeches, and presentation profiles. And she covered theater and features for City Search, Digital City, and the Tena Duberry WOW! Radio show. She previously served as astrology guru for Out Magazine, and she hastens to assure her readers that "Starla" is indeed her real name.

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