Pittsburgh Current Staff Writer
According to “Don Giovanni” director Kristine McIntyre, there’s a reason why the 1787 opera remains fresh.
“This notion of a man taking advantage of his position over women is nothing new,” she says. “It feels like this is a story kind of ripped from the headlines.”
Pittsburgh Opera opens its 2019-2020 season with a reimagined version of Mozart’s “Don Giovanni,” placing the classic opera in a 1940s film noir setting, complete with costumes and stage design reminiscent of the time period.
Don Giovanni (Craig Verm) is a charming nobleman who, with the help of his right-hand man, Leporello (Musa Ngqungwana), keeps a journal of his many conquests. Don Giovanni sexually assaults Donna Anna (Rachelle Durkin), then kills her father, the Commendatore (Brian Kontes), who had tried to come to her defense. He seduces young Zerlina (Antonia Botti-Lodovico, a current Pittsburgh Opera resident artist) on her wedding day. By the end of the show, Giovanni faces consequences for his actions.
According to McIntyre, putting the opera into the movie style came about when working on a production of the opera with the Kentucky Opera, where she was asked to think of a new way to approach “Don Giovanni.”
“I like to do things in an American idiom. I was thinking ‘American’ and ‘anti-hero,’ and then it just came to me [that] film noir answers a lot of that,” she says. “It’s sort of the original place where we let ourselves be fascinated by the bad boys.”
McIntyre has also directed the film noir version of the opera at the Utah Opera, Palm Beach Opera and the Lyric Opera of Kansas City, bringing this performance to Pittsburgh for the first time. However, this is her ninth production with Pittsburgh Opera. She last directed Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer’s operatic adaptation of Herman Melville’s “Moby-Dick” in 2018.
“It’s always a pleasure to work with Kristine on Pittsburgh Opera productions, and ‘Don Giovanni’ is no exception,” Pittsburgh Opera General Director Christopher Hahn wrote in an email to the Current.
“It always feels very good to come back here, because I’ve done a lot of good work here over the years and I really like the people at Pittsburgh Opera,” McIntyre says.
Although the opera features a new setting, the plot points remain the same, she says.
“This concept really just brings out the darkness and some of the interesting themes that already exist in the opera,” she says. “People will find it gives them a really fresh look at it and makes a lot of the themes instantly recognizable and understandable.”
“Don Gionvanni” features current Pittsburgh Opera resident artists and alumni of the program, including Corrie Stallings, who plays Donna Elvira, a woman wronged by Giovanni who aims to seek revenge. Although some productions portray her as volatile and wildly emotional, Stallings believes her character is more nuanced than that.
“She’s a complicated woman who feels things very deeply. I’m in my thirties and I have definitely had experiences in my life with relationships where they may not be the best for you, but there’s something about the person that really draws you in, even when you know it’s maybe not the best,” says Stallings. “So I think it’s very relatable, especially for me.”
Since graduating from the resident artist program in 2016, Stallings has performed with the Boston Midsummer Opera, Opera Theatre of St. Louis and Syracuse Opera. The Bay Area resident now calls Pittsburgh her home base.
“The minute I got here I knew I loved it,” she says.
First time attending the opera? According to Stallings, “Don Giovanni” is a good one to start out with.
“It’s very exciting,” Stallings says. “It’s got a little bit everything.”
According to McIntyre, the opera is perfect for film appreciators, theatre lovers and opera goers, both seasoned and new. She says, “This production is a really great blending of great music, really intense drama and filmic elements that will be really visually interesting to people.”
Pittsburgh Opera. “Don Giovanni.” Oct. 12, 15, 18 and 20. Various times. Benedum Center. 237 7th Street, Downtown. 412-281-0912 or www.pittsburghopera.org