Each year the local classical music series schedules an opera. In past years they have put on Madame Butterfly and other romantic operas. For various reasons, I have not made it to any of these performances which they have been giving for, I guess, four or five years. The cast is made up of singers from the Mexico City opera, sets are minimal and, instead of an orchestra, there is a lone piano. So I wasn't exactly in a hurry to hie myself hither. But this year they are doing Don Giovanni by Mozart, so I thought I would go.
Don Giovanni is one of the few operas I sort of know. I played mandolin in a production of it years ago, shoehorned into the orchestra pit, so I didn't have a good view of the stage. Heh! It was also taken up in a couple of music history courses at university and I have listened to a CD of it along with all the other Mozart operas in my big box Mozart Complete Edition.
I decided to opt for a side balcony ticket instead of a more expensive box or orchestra seat (down in front). Alas, my seat gave me a view of about 10% of the stage and it seemed to be the 10% where very little happened. The production started about fifteen minutes late and the first disconcerting thing was: no overture. We immediately launched into "Notte e giorno faticar." OK. The singing was all right, though not really to my taste. But as time went on the somewhat shaky piano part, the so-so singing and the inability to actually see any of the stage action became more and more tiresome. Also, the handling of the accompaniment of the recitatives showed little sense of 18th century style.
When the intermission belatedly arrived, I just left. I have left lots of concerts in the middle, but never an opera before. I guess I am a bit spoiled by seeing some productions in European opera houses. Sure, there are extreme and understandable limitations on what the local group can do. They have no access to a proper theater. The one they use seats 400 to 500 at the most and the sight-lines are bad for a lot of the seats. There is extremely minimal lighting and the set is nothing more than a painted backdrop. Also, there is no orchestra pit, which means nowhere to put an orchestra even if they could afford one. If the singing was less bombastic and they managed to tuck a string quartet away in a corner somewhere it might have worked. But as it was, it gave the impression of a not very accomplished high school caricature of a Mozart opera. Am I just being a curmudgeon? Well, yes, probably.
If I were to give some advice, it would be to suggest they try and put on something less ambitious, something that they have the resources to handle. But I'm sure that advice will be ignored. What they want to do is familiar works that everyone will want to attend. Well, everyone except me, I guess!
Here's that missing overture: