Pittsburgh Opera masterfully tackles classic

Courtesy of Pittsburgh Opera
The Giovanni’s restaurant set in full glory at the Benedum Center

Hannah Boucher | Staff Writer


Murder, seduction and insanely high notes — Mozart’s Don Giovanni tells the story of a womanizing man whose sins finally begin to catch up to him. A “film noir” take on this classic piece, the Pittsburgh Opera starts off its 2019-2020 season right.

With this fresh interpretation on such a timeless classic, the show becomes more real. Unlike most operas that are set in centuries past, this adaption of Don Giovanni takes place in the 1950s. The charming nature of the titular character is on full display, while his crimes simultaneously become more heinous.

The vibrant baritone who plays the Don Giovanni, Craig Verm, earns both the admiration and disgust of the audience, just as he does with his many “conquests.” A very talented performer all around, it is very apparent that Verm is well-equipped to take on such a complex, daunting role. His voice has an amazing quality that carries throughout the entire theater.

The role of Donna Elvira, taken on by Corrie Stallings, is yet another part that requires a wide emotional capacity. A conflicted character, Elvira has had her heart shattered by Giovanni, yet she still feels sympathy towards the unapologetic man. Stallings has a beautiful vibrato that captivates the audience, and by being sassy and classy at the same time, Stallings is able to steal the stage every time she steps on.

All of the performers wear clothing on the grayscale, so as to further establish that film noir feel. Each costume perfectly fit its character, while still managing to complement the other costumes on the stage.

The decision to stick to this color scheme pays off, especially when the audience is first introduced to Giovanni’s restaurant. The bright blue light really pops on the stage full of monotone colors.

The main set remains the same throughout the entire show, however smaller elements change to signify new locations in the story. While Giovanni’s restaurant stands out the most, the graveyard is also a very impressive setting. It really sets the tone for what’s to come in the finale.

The lighting is yet another aspect that really sells the show. When Giovanni is trying to take advantage of the young women, the lights dim, focusing only on him. This mimics the style of noir cinema, similar to that of a cliché detective scene. This technique is very effective in establishing the tone.

From the overture to the curtain call, Don Giovanni succeeds in being an engaging opera. Although the show is in Italian, it is easy to follow along with the subtitles above the performance. The performance manages to maintain its dramatic feel while carrying some humorous undertones. The comedic relief in this show is fairly tasteful and does not distract from the overall piece. This perfect balance keeps the three hour opera from feeling like an eternity.

There are still two more opportunities to see Don Giovanni during its run at the Benedum Center. There will be a show on Friday, Oct. 18 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 20 at 2 p.m. Tickets are available for purchase online on the cultural district site.