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Concert Tue Aug 14 2012
By Robert O'Connor
Opera is not the most accessible or popular art form, which is too bad, since its creators intended it to appeal to everyone. Its power is lost on most audiences since it is usually in a language they don't know, and tickets for just one concert at the Lyric Opera can cost as much as $200.
The American Chamber Opera, based in Chicago, is trying to change that, with productions in English of popular operas for a much lower price. It started its season last weekend with a performance of Mozart's opera Don Giovanni.
The ACO performs the opera in the Sanctuary of the Chicago Temple Building, without a set or props. They use the space effectively, with characters walking down the aisle, entering in the back and hiding under the front pew.
David Goversten, a Chicago native and graduate of Northwestern plays Don Giovanni, the cocksure, boisterous libertine whose assistant Leporello (Vince Wallace) says in a famous aria has slept with 1,003 Spanish women. The opera tells of his conquests of women and how it all comes back to haunt him. Before the show, the audience is given a brief talk on how the opera was autobiographical for both the man who wrote the music and wrote the words. Both Mozart and his librettist Lorenzo da Ponte were notorious womanizers. Don Giovanni was written after Mozart's father and teacher, Leopold, died, and he wrote a tragedy in the form of Don Giovanni to express his despair. It wasn't to symbolize his father as a demon, as the play and film Amadeus says.
Goverstein is a good and boisterous Don Giovanni. Don Ottavio and Donna Anna pursue him for the murder of Anna's father. Benjamin De Los Monteros is an effective Ottavio. With just a change in his eyebrows he go from fierce to tender in a few seconds. Mary Lutz-Goversten has a soaring voice that has Anna's grief shake the rafters.
The show is for ordinary people — people who don't know Italian and can't afford going to the Lyric — and it's performed in somewhat modern English (the company did its own translation of the libretto). Opera isn't a bunch of fat people yelling at each other in Italian, as popular consciousness believes it is thanks to Looney Tunes. Opera is a dramatic, passionate art form that's meant to arouse high emotions in the audience. And, lucky for everyone, in ACO's production, ordinary people who don't understand Italian can experience it.
The next performances of Don Giovanni will take place on Aug. 17 and 18 at 7:30pm and Aug. 19 at 4:30pm in the sanctuary of the Chicago Temple Building, 77 W. Washington St. General admission is $20 and Student/Senior admission is $10. Tickets can be bought online and are available until an hour before the performance.
About the author: Robert O'Connor is a co-editor at 3:AM Magazine and a regular contributor to Spike Magazine. His work has appeared in the Chi-Town Daily News, the Twin Cities Daily Planet, KFAI and elsewhere. He lives in Irving Park.