Music ReviewsMUST SEEOperaREVIEWSTom Williams

Don Giovanni by American Chamber Opera Company

Music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozarmozartt

Conducted by Deanna Tham

Stage Direction by Laura Kimmel

At the Chicago Temple

Amazing voices propel the intimate chamber rendition of Mozart’s Don Giovanni

Since it is August and few show are opening, I decided to investigate what the American Chamber Opera Company is all about. Boy, was I impressed at what a group of dedicated and talented folks can do despite limited space and low budgets. There concept is simple: “Classical Opera with a Modern Flair.” The creatives at American Chamber Opera Company have penned a new translation of Don Giovanni in English with use of contemporary vernacular language. They have the translation working with the rhymes effortlessly working with Mozart’s fabulous score. Played as a comic opera, Don Giovanni unfolds as a playful, often humorous, opera that seamlessly uses the  five member chamber orchestra  that consists of  a piano,  two violins, a viola and a cello. Conductor Deanna Tham and her all female musicians respected Mozart’s score with a nimble sound.

american chamber opera company

Storyline:  “Don Giovanni is the operatic version of the classic, Don Juan. It tells the story of a pompous womanizer who rapes, seduces, or even marries (and then promptly leaves) ladies so that he can add more names to the list of women he has slept with. He also has a habit to murder their fathers and break up other married couples. Upset by his actions, Donna Elvira, Donna Anna and her fiance Don Ottavio seek out Giovanni to stop him and punish him for his crimes. They find him seducing a bride on her wedding day, but Don Giovanni’s extraordinary skills of deception keep their revenge at bay until the ghost of Anna’s murdered father comes and drags Giovanni to hell.”

Despite no set (actually the opera was performed on the alter of the Chicago Temple) and no costumes except for masks, the cast of fifteen players sang their hearts out. The intimate space and the use of contemporary English sung most articulately by the principals made the opera  work surprisingly well. Led by the rich baritone vocal chops of David Govertsen as scoundrel Don Giovanni with the soothing tenor work from Benjamin De Los Monteros  as Don Ottsvio, the cast featured harmonious arias rich in emotion and verve. Brenna Sluiter’s Donna Elvira and Mary Lutz-Govertsen’s Donna Anna used their strong vocals to enhance the opera.

The wonderful singing and the expert acting gave the opera both an intimacy and a grand feel. Doing an opera chamber style with mostly strings works well especially when you have a terrific young group of female musicians like the orchestra fielded by the American Chamber Opera. At around $30 or less per ticket, the chamber opera from American Chamber Opera are affordable, intimate, stylish and well-crafted. They sure got the essence of opera right – fine music with strong voices. Doing classical opera in English “with a modern flare” makes for wonderful art.

I’ll be covering this ambitious and talented opera company’s work from now on. Kudos to their craft!

Highly Recommended

Tom Williams

Talktheatreinchicago podcast

Date Reviewed: August 12, 2012

At the Chicago Temple, 77 W. Washington, Chicago, IL

2 thoughts on “Don Giovanni by American Chamber Opera Company

  • In case readers were interested in names of the group that makes up the all female chamber ensemble, the orchestra is as follows: Azusa Tashiro and Renee Henley, Violin; Hilary Butler, Viola; Allegra Montanari, Cello and Alyssa Arrigo on Piano.

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