By Rick Mortensen,San Bernardino County Sun, May 30, 2003
At last year's press conference to announce the 2002-03 season, Los
Angeles Opera artistic director Placido Domingo didn't know yet who
would direct Mozart's "Don Giovanni.' He did offer a clue as to what
kind of production he had in mind by mentioning he was considering
controversial German director Achim Freyer.
The 2001-02 L.A. Opera season included Freyer's abstract staging of
the Bach B Minor Mass, which featured dancers in rubber suits doing
pantomimes behind a colorfully lit scrim.
Domingo didn't get Freyer for "Don Giovanni,' but L.A. Opera did get
something similarly avant-garde in Mariusz Trelinski's production,
which features sets by Boris Kudlicka and costumes by fashion
Trelinski won Poland's Minister of Culture Award for his 1990
film, "A Farewell to Autumn.' Trelinski's opera debut was the 1995
world premiere of "The Heartsnatcher,' and he has directed four
operas since then, including a production of Puccini's "Madame
Butterfly' at Washington Opera.
The new production is a joint venture between L.A. Opera and the
Polish National Opera, which premiered it earlier this year. It
features outlandish costumes, abstract sets and choreographed
movements for all the actors.
L.A. Opera resident artist James Creswell plays Masetto, a brutish
peasant whose wife, Zerlina, is seduced by Don Giovanni (Italian for
Don Juan). Creswell compared Trelinski's production to commedia
dell'arte, a 16th-century European style of theater that used clowns
and stock characters.
"The movement is very stylized and exact instead of being natural and
organic like real people,' Creswell said. "That's a challenge,
because, while the movement is not organic, the text and the music
have to be. It sort of plays tricks on your brain.'
Hungarian soprano Andrea Rost, who plays Don Giovanni's other
conquest, Donna Anna, agreed.
"It's not easy,' she said. "Sometimes I have to have two faces. One
is singing and the other is thinking what I have to do next.'
Still, Rost had high praise for Trelinski's vision and said his
experience in film gives him an attention to detail not often seen in
"He wants us to have strong intents in our bodies,' she said. "Even
through the audience won't see it, he wants us to feel it.'
Rost made her own film debut last year in a filmed version of the
opera "Bank Ban,' by Hungarian composer Ferenc Erkel. One of the
world's premier lyric sopranos, Rost is making her third L.A. Opera
appearance this season, after "Tales of Hoffmann' in December and
last month's gala concert.
While she's played the role of Zerlina many times, this is her first
turn as Donna Anna, and she's excited to be playing a more serious
"Zerlina is just a simple girl, and Donna Anna has a lot of intensity
and much more emotion in both of her arias,' she said. "There is a
lot of drama in this lady. Her second aria is just amazing. It's very
difficult and very high.'
Rost said Trelinski's vision for Donna Anna is different from any
other production she's seen. In most productions, Donna Anna hates
the man who seduced her-- in some productions, raped her -- and
killed her father, and she goads her fiance, Don Ottavio, into
"What's new for me in this production ... is that Anna is really in
love with Don Giovanni, and she doesn't trust Don Ottavio very much,'
Rost said. "Her second aria is a farewell to love, a farewell to Don
Although he's only 30 years old, Uruguayan bass-baritone Erwin
Schrott is a veteran Giovanni. Like Rost, he admires Trelinski's bold
vision for his character. The opera chronicles the legendary lover's
exploits until he is confronted by the ghost of the man he murdered
and is literally swallowed up into hell.
Schrott said Trelinski sees the protagonist's descent into hell as
"Don Giovanni, in this production, is just trying to get an answer
from God,' Schrott said. "For Mariusz Trelinski, Don Giovanni is a
little bit tired, he's a little bit bored of women and pleasure
because everything is too easy for him. He needs something more. He
never gets that excited until he finds death, the ghost or God,
whatever you want to call it."
OPERA PREVIEW DON GIOVANNI
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. today, Wednesday, June 11, 14, 17, 20, 22; 1 p.m.
WHERE: Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, 135 N. Grand Avenue, Los Angeles
MORE INFO: (213) 365-3500