San Francisco Opera opens its new season with the final part of its multi-year Mozart-Da Ponte Trilogy in which the Company has presented all three collaborations by Mozart with librettist Lorenzo De Ponte. Each of these productions has been set in the same American house at different stages of a 300-year span. With production once again by Michael Cavanagh, Don Giovanni rounds off his staging of these operas, which began in 2019 with Le Nozze de Figaro, followed by Così fan tutte in 2021.
Cavanagh’s Le Nozze de Figaro was set in early post-colonial America when the house was newly built. Così fan tutte was set in the 1930s, when the house had been converted into a country club, and the characters were facing a moral dilemma. The action in Don Giovanni takes place 150 years later, at a time of uncertainty, when both the house and society are crumbling.
In this production of Don Giovanni, the cast is headed by Canadian baritone Etienne Dupuis as lothario Don Giovanni, Romanian soprano Adela Zaharia as his potential conquest Donna Anna, and Australian soprano Nicole Car as Donna Elvira who has been betrayed by Giovanni. This production represents a Company debut for all three artists. Austrian soprano Christina Gansch is Zerlina, the young bride whom Giovanni tries to seduce, Italian bass-baritone Luca Pisaroni is Giovanni’s servant Leporello, Samoan tenor Amitai Pati is Donna Anna’s fiancé Don Ottavio, Cody Quattlebaum is Zerlina’s intended husband Masetto, and Soloman Howard is the Commendatore, father of Donna Anna. Leading this production is Parisian conductor Bertrand de Billy, making his Company debut.
Don Giovanni, commissioned right after Mozart’s highly successful trip to Prague in 1787, is a two-act dramma giocoso – a particular type of comic opera, described by Daniel Heartz in The Musical Times as “A frolic with serious elements” – and is based on the fictional character, Don Juan, created by Spanish dramatist Tirso de Molina. Da Ponte based his libretto on Giovanni Bertati’s version for a former opera entitled Don Giovanni Tenorio. Don Giovanni premiered in Prague at the Estates Theatre on October 29th in 1787. It was somewhat misunderstood at first, but ultimately it came to be regarded as one of the greatest of all operas.
The opera tells of Don Giovanni, a serial seducer with a huge ego, who cannot resist the charms of any woman, casting each lover aside without an ounce of remorse, and one who isn’t shy of murderous intent either – he kills the Commendatore who confronts him as Giovanni tries to seduce his daughter. Ultimately Giovanni meets his match in a graveyard in which a huge statue of the Commendatore stands. The statue urges him to repent of his ways, but Don Giovanni, unwilling to amend his lifestyle, succumbs to the fate which the Commendatore has predicted for him, and is consumed by the flames that have sprung up around him, as a chorus of demons condemns him to eternal damnation.
Etienne Dupuis has appeared in major opera houses such as the Metropolitan Opera – where he was fêted for his recent performance as Rodrigue in Verdi’s Don Carlos – Deutsche Oper Berlin, Opéra de Montreal, Opernhaus Zurich and the Glyndebourne Festival. Future engagements include his Wiener Staatsoper debut as Valentin in Gounod’s Faust, performances as Count Almaviva Le Nozze di Figaro at the Bayerische Staatsoper, Albert in Massenet’s Werther and Marcello in Puccini’s La bohème at the Vienna State Opera, and Russian concerts at the Opera de Paris. Further engagements include returns to the Metropolitan Opera, Wiener Staatsoper, Deutsche Oper Berlin and the Opéra de Montreal.
In this current 2021-22 season, Adela Zaharia has sung her signature role of Donna Anna at De Nationale Opera in Amsterdam, at the Opéra Nationale de Paris and at the Metropolitan Opera. She has also appeared in this role at the Teatro Real in Madrid and in her house debut at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. In addition, she has appeared in the Bayerische Staatsoper premiere of Nikodijević’s The Seven Deaths of Maria Callas, singing the part of Lucia Ashton, which she reprised at the Opéra de Paris, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Bayerische Staatsoper, Greek National Opera and Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino.
Nicole Car has appeared as Donna Elvira at the Opéra de Paris and at the Metropolitan Opera. She has most recently sung the role of Tatyana in Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin in a concert-staged production with Dallas Opera and is scheduled to appear in San Francisco Opera’s Eun Sun Kim Conducts Verdi later this month. Future engagements include those of Leonora in Verdi’s Il trovatore at Opéra de Montreal, Ellen Orford in Britten’s Peter Grimes at the Metropolitan Opera and Micaëla in Bizet’s Carmen at Opéra Nationale de Paris.
Michael Cavanagh is currently the Director/Producer in Residence at Opera on the Avalon, a young artist program in St John’s, Newfoundland. Having directed well over 100 productions in North America, he is a regular at San Francisco Opera, having made his debut with John Adams’ Nixon in China. His next production for San Francisco Opera will be a new production of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, starring Diana Damrau.
Set and projection design for Don Giovanni are by Erhard Rom, costume design by Constance Hoffman and lighting design by Jane Cox.
Bertrand de Billy has held the role of Music Director at the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona and of the Radio Symphony Orchestra in Vienna. He has been principal guest conductor of the Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne and of the Dresdner Philharmonie, and has appeared at the state operas of Vienna, Berlin, Hamburg and Munich, as well as at opera houses such as the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, the Grand Théâtre de la Monnaie, Opéra National de Paris, the Metropolitan Opera and at the Salzburg Festival. In this production of Don Giovanni, Bertrand de Billy will conduct the 1788 version of the score, in which Mozart added arias and made various changes for the staging in Vienna in April 1788. In his first performances since joining the Company in January, San Francisco Opera’s Chorus Director John Keene prepares the Opera Chorus.
Don Giovanni runs at the War Memorial Opera House for eight performances from June 4th to July 2nd.
San Francisco Opera will also make available live-streams of select performances from the 2022 Summer Season, so that opera lovers around the world will have the opportunity to watch Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Bright Sheng and David Henry Hwang’s Dream of the Red Chamber and the Eun Sun Kim Conducts Verdi concert, featuring Nicole Car, Arturo Chacón-Cruz, Etienne Dupuis and Soloman Howard. These performances will be live-streamed as follows:
Don Giovanni – Sunday, June 12th at 2.00 pm (PT) with a 48-hour on-demand feature from 10.00 am (PT) on Monday, June 13th through 10.00 am (PT) on Wednesday June 15th.
Dream of the Red Chamber – Sunday, June 19th at 2.00 pm (PT) with a 48-hour on-demand feature from 10.00 am (PT) on Monday, June 20th through 10.00 am (PT) on Wednesday, June 22nd.
Eun Sun Kim Conducts Verdi – Thursday June 30th at 7.30 pm (PT)
Tickets for all live-streams cost $25 and are available at sfopera.com
All photographs © Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera – taken during an early rehearsal of Don Giovanni
Information sourced from:
SF Opera program notes
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