The Evolution of Don Giovanni

MN Opera Creative Advisor Dale Johnson reflects upon a few of our past productions and how we plan to update Mozart’s legendary story of a notorious Don Juan for modern audiences.

Don Giovanni, 1988

The first Don Giovanni I was involved with at MN Opera was stage director Nic Muni’s production in 1988. The visual concept of the production was based on Goya Paintings, and it was indeed quite beautiful. Muni’s idea for the lead character was to make him the “ideal” of each of the main characters. Every time he appeared, he was dressed differently, according to what each of the three women desired. William Shimell as the Don was pure evil, but very seductive. He was determined and rarely failed in his conquest.

Don Giovanni, 1996

James Robinson directed our Don Giovanni in 1996. English baritone Robert Heyward’s Don was an out of control man, seeming to know that his end was near. He was a bully and a decadent aristocrat. Neither handsome nor particularly evil, he over-powered everything around him as if it was his right to take and destroy.

Don Giovanni, 2006

Don Giovanni in 2006 was directed by French director Patrick Mailler. His Don was played by bass Kyle Ketelson. This was a very sexy Don, who was able to slide in and out of trouble due to his good looks and cunning. I remember the production had a Downton Abbey kind of elegance in the costume design.

We are just starting to work on the new production of Don Giovanni. For this production, we recognize the brilliance of the music. It is undeniably a masterpiece. However, in the light of the social and political world around us, we felt we needed to take a deeper look into the controversial character and the women he interacts with. We have engaged a female creative team, namely stage director Keturah Stickann and conductor Karen Kamensek, to envision a Don Giovanni for today. Not only will they dive deep into what makes Giovanni tick, but perhaps more importantly, how the women around him react.

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