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Opera's 'Don Giovanni' takes a page from old Hollywood

Lee Gregory (Leporello) (left) and Calland Metts (Don Giovanni) perform during a dress rehearsal of Lyric Opera of the North's production of 'Don Giovanni.' The production is set in 1930s Hollywood. Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com1 / 3
Vicki Fingalson (Donna Elvira) and Lee Gregory (Leporello) perform during a dress rehearsal. Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com2 / 3
William Bryan (Masetto) and Erin Persick, (Zerlina) perform during a dress rehearsal of Lyric Opera of the North's production of "Don Giovanni" is set in 1930s Hollywood. Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com3 / 3

Lyric Opera of the North's upcoming take on Mozart includes silent film-style title cards, a bit of lederhosen, and an anti-hero with the sort of character flaws known to infect mega film stars.

Consider this: "Don Giovanni" meets 1930s Hollywood.

"It's not hard to imagine this happening in a movie studio," LOON co-artistic director Sarah Lawrence, who also plays Donna Anna, said during a recent rehearsal break at the NorShor Theatre.

The local opera company, specifically stage director Christina Baldwin, took cues from the recently restored NorShor Theatre's yesteryear aesthetic for the production. Even the set pieces, Lawrence noted, seem original to the stage.

"It's such a glamorous era," said Vicki Fingalson, who sings the part of Hollywood diva Donna Elvira. "That era made everyone look gorgeous: men looked gorgeous, women looked gorgeous. It puts a sparkle on everything."

"Don Giovanni," with Calland Metts in the title role, is at 7:30 p.m. Friday and 3 p.m. Sunday at the NorShor Theatre. Tickets for the tragi-comedy start at $38 and are available at loonopera.org or the NorShor Box Office, (218) 733-7555. The 2 hour, 45 minute performance will be sung in Italian and English with English supertitles.

A timely topic

Don Giovanni has a running tally of women he has slept with — whether or not it was consensual: Hundreds in Italy, but more in Spain, similar amounts in both France and Turkey. When the opera opens, he is being removed from the Commendatore home, where he has slid into the official's engaged daughter Donna Anna's bed.

He wins a duel, then continues into the night in search of more. He encounters Donna Elvira, sung by Vicki Fingalson, who has a past with Giovanni — and it's not a montage of happy memories. She calls him out for his bad behavior, and yet he continues on his quest for bigger numbers.

"Don Giovanni" was on LOON's season schedule before theater-head Harvey Weinstein was publicly accused of rape and sexual abuse by legions of actors.

"I love that it's a timely subject," said Lee Gregory, who plays the title character's clean-up man, Leporello.

In one scene, Giovanni explains-away Elvira's anger in a dismissive way.

"She's a little bit crazy, you know, she's in love with me and just makes this stuff up," Lawrence paraphrased. "This whole 'predatory male' thing is resonating pretty loudly."

Strong women moments

Fingalson was introduced to Elvira's arias about 15 years ago, she said, and has had her eye on — and has been studying the role since. The Hollywood spin and current culture have offered her a new read of the character.

"I've had to look at Donna Elvira in a much different way than a traditional production of this opera," she said. "It means taking the words and, at times, giving them a completely different intent from the original production or intent of the show. It's been an interesting thing to do. It's also been a struggle."

Her favorite moment, she said, is her aria in the middle of Act II when she is finally ok with finding her strength.

Don Giovanni might not have that same comfortable finale. During Monday's rehearsal, Metts was seen being artfully dragged from the stage.

In real life, Lawrence and Metts' young daughter asked if he was going to be OK.

"Yes," Lawrence said. "He might have some bruises."

IF YOU GO

What: Lyric Opera of the North's production of "Don Giovanni," stage direction by Christina Baldwin and music direction by Dirk Meyer

When: 7:30 p.m. June 22 and 3 p.m. June 24

Where: NorShor Theatre, 211 E. Superior St.

Tickets: Start at $38; Available at NorShor Box Office, (218) 733-7555 or at www.loonopera.org