The Christo Curtain of Death


Last night I had the wonderful experience of going to the Seattle Opera, thanks to one of my cousins (ok, for Thing Two's happiness, this is not exactly my cousin, he's my first cousin once removed - in other words, he's my mother's cousin. happy now?). We went for Thai food and then to the opera, which was a nice way to not be a librarian for a few hours.

The opera house has been renovated within the past few years and is modern, but not aggressively so. Since it shares space with Pacific Northwest Ballet, there are accommodations for that dual-purpose that you don't see, for example, at the Met. One of the nicer things was that the audience actually dressed for the opera. I'm often torn by this: do you want to appear elitist and insist on "Dressing Up" or do you want to appeal to a broader audience... or should people realize that going out is something of an occasion and dress accordingly? I come down on the side of it's an occasion, so my "usual" just won't do. The audience was also mixed in terms of age - another good thing.

This was Don Giovanni, Mozart's take on Don Juan. This production has gotten good reviews, and I have to admit, I was stunned by the singing. Giovanni was sung by Mariusz Kwiecien, and I'll bet we'll be hearing a lot more from him. The others weren't bad, either. The set was a moderny slab, with various pieces that opened and shut to emulate doors and so forth. Sometimes you'd see a balcony, sometimes an elevator... you get the gist. One thing that directors like to do is update an opera's setting. I couldn't possibly tell you what era this was in: there was a couple straight out of Happy Days' 50s, another in Edwardian clothing, and the servants all seemed to be in powdered wigs. The dance/party scene included jitterbugging and disco - all set to Mozart's music. A bit too mish-mash, if you ask me.

So, the plot. The synopsis of Act II, Scene 5 reads:
Don Giovanni is interrupted at supper by Donna Elvira, who wants him to change his ways. He laughs at her and she leaves, but runs back screaming. Investigating, Leporello returns in terror: the statue has come. The Commendatore enters and, refusing to touch earthly food, invites Don Giovanni to dine with him. Don Giovanni accepts and is engulfed by the flames of hell, steadfastly refusing to repent.
The entrance of the Commendatore's statue is very effective, filled with smoke and ominous portend. The fall of Don Giovanni into hell is equally effective.... until the fall of the Christo Curtain of Death.

The designer, for reasons known best only to him, heralds The Fall with flashing lights and red colors (all understandable) and this huge curtain that comes crashing down from the flies, obscuring the main slab set. The lighting on the curtain was - I kid you not - the same orange as The Gates. Same fabric, too.

Since this is just before the very end of the opera, perhaps the set designer was saying "it's a wrap".

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