BAR HARBOR — Opera fans are going to be in for a special treat this Friday, July 15, when the Bar Harbor Music Festival performs the dark comedy “Don Giovanni” at the Criterion Theatre.
Come to think of it, fans of great singing, Mozart’s music, talented and beautiful young men and women, a great, sexy story and the grand old theater itself are in for a thrill.
This is a sure bet judging from a recent rehearsal at which the seven cast members were put through their vocal paces by director Fenlon Lamb.
As in the past, this took place at a private home at the head of Somes Sound. The house is largely made of granite, and yet upon approaching, the glorious sound of those seven voices easily could be heard drifting out onto the driveway and over the cars rushing down Route 198.
Inside the great room where the rehearsal was taking place, the sound was close to overwhelming, and it would have been, had not every note and harmony been pitch perfect. The sound was shaped so beautifully one could feel and almost see the waves of music as they reverberated around the room.
Here, there was some sort of musical argument going on, with the singers divided into two factions, each presenting its view about the matter at hand with increasing forcefulness and conviction. If all differences of opinion were expressed in such a manner, people would be too enthralled to engage in violence.
The experience makes it clear why this opera, about the philandering Don Giovanni and the vengeful women he has seduced, is one of the 10 most performed in the world.
In a telephone interview, Lamb gave fair warning that this was going to be something extra special.
“I’m a big fan of all Mozart’s operas,” she said, “because his characters are so well defined.” “Don Giovanni,” she explained, was created in the comedia del arte tradition, in which the actors were encouraged to improvise their roles, making them their own. Lamb appears to have taken that liberty with the play itself, setting it in modern day New Orleans, with a few interesting twists Mozart never thought of, but likely would have approved.
Lamb added that they have a fabulous set and costume designer, Zoe Stille, who is working wonders with a limited budget to make the production colorful and fun.
Lamb confessed to some self-congratulatory pats on the back this week after she heard the cast she had assembled for the first time.
“I knew all the voices were perfect for this opera, but there’s always that concern if they will all work well together,” she said. “After just a few minutes into our rehearsal of Act I, I was grinning ear to ear. These guys are hot! hot! hot!”
That certainly could be said of Luis Orozco, who looks and sounds as if he were born to play Don Giovanni, with his dark, finely chiseled, good looks and seductive baritone.
But he may have met his match in the trio of lovely sopranos, April Martin, Janinah Burnette and Chloe Moore, as the furious scorned women that Don Giovanni has seduced and abandoned.
The other men in the cast are no milquetoasts either, with Gregory Schmidt holding his own as the sole tenor, bass Christopher Job as Don Giovanni’s exasperated servant Leporello, and the bassiest bass of them all, David Cushing, whose voice is so deep and resonant it feels a bit like an earthquake. Together they produce a tsunami of wonderful sound that should fill the Criterion to its art deco rafters.
And let’s not forget the Criterion itself.
Lamb said she and the cast all are impressed with the recent renovations there. “It’s truly wonderful what they have accomplished in the past year.”
And the final added attraction is Clara Chowning, the opera’s extraordinary accompanist, who manages to make a grand piano sound like a full pit orchestra. Oh, and for those who don’t speak Italian but want to understand what all these lovely people are singing about, subtitles will be projected above the stage.
“Don Giovanni” will be performed for one night only, Friday, July 16, at 8 p.m.
For tickets and information, write to the Bar Harbor Music Festival, The Rodick Building, 59 Cottage St., Bar Harbor, ME 04609-1800 or call 288-5744. Tickets also are available at www.barharbormusicfestival.org.