Don Giovanni



photos courtesy of Cory Weaver

Conductor: Wolf/Agler/Donath/Manahan/Callegari
Cast: D’Arcangelo/Mattei/Rhodes/Shimmel, Dehn/Flanigan/Deshorties/Knighten, Myrto/Goerke/Miller/Clarey, Applyby/Piper/Mathey/Thomsen, Irmiter/Ely/Goerz, Fons/Comeaux/Fox
Production: N. Muni (stage direction/scenery), D. Burdick & N. Muni (clothes), T. C. Hase (lighting), J. Geier (hair/make-up)

“…a satisfying, strongly cast production directed by Nicholas Muni, who also designed the highly stylized, minimal but effective sets built for the Cincinnati Opera…the interaction between the characters and the palpable chemistry the cast members had with each other helped keep the production alive. There’s plenty to love in this production.”
– James Chute, Chicago Tribune (February, 2015)

“Nicholas Muni’s marvelous set design features a deeply raked stage with sliding panels, trap doors and translucent portraits to evoke various settings. Muni also directed the production (and composed the supertitles). The penultimate scene is breathtaking, a testament to and consummation of Muni’s able directorial skills.”
– Brad Auerbach, Entertainment Today
(February, 2015)

“The ensemble was as fine as any ever assembled by San Diego Opera in recent memory. Designed and directed by Nicholas Muni, this Don Giovanni was set in a timeless art gallery filled with Degas works. It was splendid in appearance and so facile that the opera, with no scene-change breaks and briskly conducted by Daniele Callegari, clocked in at a mere three hours and fifteen minutes.
– Charlene Baldridge, Opera News (Feburary, 2015)

“The lineage of Nicholas Muni‘s production goes back longer than any other “Don Giovanni” production I’ve reviewed. The production ultimately dates to Minnesota Opera’s 1988 season and has been performed by the opera companies of Vancouver, Cincinnati (in three different seasons!), Baltimore, Portland, Austin and Philadelphia. Although the production predates the current reliance on projections in staging many operas, much of the look of the production is modern including extensive use of lighting effects.

I strongly recommend reading Muni’s “Director’s Notes” that appear on the San Diego Opera’s website under the “Don Giovanni” heading. There one will find a brilliant exposition of the social history of Catholic Spain. His essay is an account of Imperial Spain’s class structure; attitudes towards marriage, sex and dynastic survival; the status of women, and upper class concerns about how to seek justice, as opposed to vengeance. He explains the social conventions that make the mix of dances and dancers at Don Giovanni’s villa so revolutionary. Muni also reflects on the psychology of Don Giovanni and of the women (based on the attitudes and mores of the period) whom he seduces. Muni’s ideas are always interesting, and are faithful to the masterpiece that Mozart and Da Ponte bequeathed to us.
– William, Opera Warhorses
(February, 2015)

Muni designed the simple sets, directed the concentrated action and translated da Ponte’s text into interesting supertitles.The resurrected San Diego Opera certainly put together a hit with this performance of the Mozart masterwork.”
– Maria Nockin, Opera Today
(February, 2015)

San Diego Opera’s Opera’s stunning production of Don Giovanni not only made an air-tight case for the opera’s dramatic potency, but offered a roster of accomplished singers who gave Mozart’s richest score its due and then some. Complementing this assembled vocal prowess, Nicholas Muni’s insightful direction and sleek production design clarified the work’s labyrinthian plot in ways that proved helpful even to Don Giovanni aficionados. Muni moved the dramatic action as swiftly as Mozart’s effervescent orchestral score prodded his vocal lines, and even the second act – whose pace rarely exceeds glacial – took on a welcome air of urgency.

With walls that quickly slid into place and furnishings temporarily concealed with drop cloths that could be removed in a moment, Muni’s unit set-a massive kaleidoscopic abstraction-easily suggested locations such as a street scene, a ballroom, or a cemetery. His raked stage was filled with trap doors out of which necessary props were easily retrieved and through which characters made discreet exits. The set and costume materials suggested the late 18th century in color and texture, but their minimalist surroundings had the air of 20th century surrealism.
– Ken Herman, San Diego Story (February, 2015)

Most recent productions stress the drama, but Nicholas Muni emphasizes the jocularity. The production doesn’t meddle with the place or time, and it keeps the action flowing rapidly from indoor to outdoor locales. A plethora of picture frames serve a double purpose: they contain Goyaesque images from Spain in the second half of the 18th century and also symbolize Don Giovanni’s feeling that he’s penned in, restricted by society’s framework and moral codes.
Steve Cohen, Broad Street Review (May, 2014)

“Sold-out houses and enthusiastic audiences greeted striking new productions of Don Giovanni and The Turn of the Screw. Nicholas Muni, now in his second full season as artistic director, has revitalized Cincinnati Opera, energizing audiences and producing handsome productions with fine dramatic sensibilities while maintaining Cincinnati’s tradition of musical excellence. Muni staged and designed Don Giovanni using a bare black floor outlined with a gold frame, with three huge paintings after Goya and sliding mirror-paneled walls to vary the playing area. Muni’s clever dramatic touches worked well.”
Charles Parsons, Opera News (September, 1999)

“Nicholas Muni’s production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni is both darkly provocative and complex. Opening the summer festival season, it has the Muni look: spare black backdrops and a steeply raked stage; a large mirror; three suspended Goya paintings. The production was animatedly staged by Mr. Muni, beginning his third season as Artistic Director.”
Janelle Gelfand, The Cincinnati Enquirer (June, 1999)

“The Don is helped along his nocturnal maneuvers, not just by his accustomed factotum, Leporello, but by director (and set designer) Nicholas Muni, whose concept runs at least part of the way toward the gonadal that many think Mozart and his librettist, da Ponte, really had foremost in mind. Director Muni wisely opted for the non-traditional, unafraid to push over operatic sacred cows.”
Roger Grooms, Everybody’s News (June, 1999)

“So much has been written about Mozart’s Don Giovanni that a conductor or director risks much in even attempting it. The Minnesota Opera opened its season with [it] conducted by Hugh Wolff and directed by Nicholas Muni, this was a production that acknowledged both the serious and the playful sides of the score and libretto. Reality and imagination constantly mingled, sometimes putting the audience off balance but constantly provoking it to enter more deeply into the opera. Muni held the balance between the lighter and darker sides, avoiding the usual opera clichés. Given the problems of staging the Don’s descent into hell for an audience used to cinematic realism, he did an imaginative job.”
Michael Fleming, St. Paul Pioneer Dispatch (October, 1988)

“Nicholas Muni, who staged the new production, avoids conspiracy theories. In broadest outline, his production is more conventional than (Wesley) Balk’s but it is perhaps even more striking, more carefully detailed—both funnier and more chilling. Muni, who staged last year’s attractive Rusalka avoids clichés at every turn. The Don’s Champagne aria, usually an exercise in forced high spirits—and usually a big yawn—is here full of menace and calculation.”
Michael Anthony, Minneapolis Star Tribune (October, 1988)

“In Minnesota Opera’s postmodern ‘Don Giovanni’, Goya met Mozart. Haunted by images of the composer’s Spanish contemporary, Nicholas Muni’s stylish, discerning production gave us a sequence of psychological and moral encounters, spawned in ‘the sleep of Reason’ by the extravagant caprichos of those in love. So much meat, and only four performances?”
Rodney Shewan, Opera Canada (December, 1988)

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