Boston, MA — On April 24, Boston Lyric Opera (BLO) wraps up its 2008-2009 «Spellbound» Season with a unique approach to Mozart’s brilliant Don Giovanni. The highly acclaimed director and designer team of Tazewell Thomson (Stage Director), Donald Eastman (Set Designer), Merrily Murray-Walsh (Costume Designer), and Robert Wierzel (Lighting Designer) worked with BLO staff on innovative ways to create a new production of this repertoire favorite with a significantly reduced budget.
When BLO’s new General & Artistic Director Esther Nelson approached Mr. Thompson to direct Don Giovanni, she encouraged him to create a fresh perspective on the classic opera without incurring the usual expenses of a new set and costumes. Mr. Thompson had previously worked with Mr. Eastman on the design for Death in Venice for New York City Opera (NYCO) and Glimmerglass Opera. Mr. Eastman recalls, «The setting for Death in Venice was originally conceived by Tazewell and myself as a dream-like evocation of classical and urban Italian architecture combined into one space that could evoke, through lighting, the qualities of infernal brightness or chilling darkness. Together we realized how perfect a springboard for telling the Giovanni story it was. New ideas came to light as we re-entered and rediscovered a space where yet another great story could be told.»
While opera companies frequently rent out sets to each other, those sets are typically used for one specific opera. By repositioning a set that had been created for a different opera that fortunately takes place in the same country as Don Giovanni, «we probably spent a third of what it would have cost to build the show anew,» said Dan Duro, BLO’s Director of Production. That savings was secured even after BLO made alterations to adapt the scenery to the Shubert and other similar theaters, and built or bought new furniture and other stage pieces for the production.
Savings were incurred on an additional level after the choice was made to take Don Giovanni out of the eighteenth century and set it in the 1950s. «Assembling a complete new costume production was within reach financially because of the mid-twentieth-century period chosen by the stage director and creative team,» noted Mr. Duro. This benefits not only the Company but the audience who will enjoy brand new costume ideas, which will in turn also be more appealing to other companies for their future presentations. Mr. Duro added, «Because of its reasonable size, rental fee, and ‘running’ cost (the cost to operate the show in the theater), the new production will be a likely choice for mid-size opera companies looking for a well-designed, attractive production. Through future rentals to other companies after its run in Boston, BLO will recoup its investment; after that any rentals will provide a revenue stream shared by co-owners BLO, Glimmerglass, and NYCO to support operations and future productions.»
These measures represent an innovative approach to creating a new production that affords audiences familiar with the opera a chance to see it from a new perspective, and also demonstrates that opera companies can be creative and still reduce expenses in this economically challenging time.
BLO’s Don Giovanni opens Friday, April 24 and presents the Company debut of Christopher Schaldenbrand who has made the title role his trademark.
Mozart’s celebrated tragicomedy of the world’s most legendary lover, widely regarded as one of the greatest operas ever composed, tells the tale of the famous womanizer who has one last chance to repent of his philandering ways. But when he adds murder and blasphemy to his lengthy list of sins, human and supernatural forces combine to exact an eerie punishm