I’m going to say what everyone is thinking: Don Giovanni is not a nice man. I formed that opinion right off the bat, as I saw him stab a man in the heart. The man’s crime? Protecting his daughter from Don Giovanni’s attempted sexual assault. Then I listened to seven people sing about it for an entire opera.
My first experience with Queen City Opera (not to be confused with Cincinnati Opera) was a pleasant surprise. They perform at the Arts Center at Dunham, which from what I understand is the swankiest of rec centers in all the land. The Arts Center itself had a prior life as a hospital. It sits up on a hill overlooking a pool / water park, and is at the beginning of a manicured disc golf course. Fun date night idea: throw a round of 18, see the Opera, sneak into the pool.
What impressed me right out of the gate about the QCO was how broad the orchestra was, and how the front row is about five feet away from them. You can practically read the music on their stands. It’s really cool to be so close to the musicians, and they were stellar. I don’t know a lot of Mozart, but they kept me riding the pulse of the performance, even as Don Giovanni tried to sleep with every female that strolled anywhere near the stage.
Secondly, probably because it was an opera, these cats can sing. Sure, they might have been saying things like
“If you don’t give me at least a little something, I’ll kill myself in front of you”
but it sounds way more reasonable when being belted out repeatedly by an angelic, operatic soloist. There’s something about unbridled skill that makes a scene where a distraught husband is alternating between trying to kill his wife and trying to kill Don Giovanni more artistic than sadistic. Does that make sense?
Despite the rawness of the venue and the sets, the artistic director and conductor Isaac Selya leads a professional group of musicians and choral performers. And despite it being a preview night, I found myself really wavering between hope and fear as an angry mob tried to bludgeon Don Giovanni to death with a 2×4. Related quote:
“I’ll destroy him. I’ll rip out his heart.”
Now that I think about it, this work is filled with violent, dramatic dialog. We get it, you want to kill Don Giovanni. Or yourself. Or someone else. If you spent less time singing that fact, you could spend more time bludgeoning.
Overall, it was a great experience. I’m always a fan of local artists and performers, quirky venues, and quality talent. Selya’s Don Giovanni checked all those boxes for me. Now, that’s not to say I couldn’t have used a snack – it is a long performance. If I can give you one piece of advice, it’s to put a granola bar in your pocket. Other than that, just kick back and learn to loathe the Don, just like I did.