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Boston Baroque gives contemporary spin to Mozart’s ‘Don Giovanni’

Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
Boston Baroque gives contemporary spin to Mozart’s ‘Don Giovanni’
Baritone Sidney Outlaw performs the lead role in Boston Baroque’s production of “Don Giovanni.” PHOTO: Kia Caldwell

Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” is one of the classic operas that stirs the hearts of music lovers from the first notes. This month, Boston Baroque presents a contemporary spin on the timeless tale of seduction and betrayal, starring award-winning baritone Sidney Outlaw.

The opera follows the bold and ruthless adventures of Don Giovanni, a flirt and a swindler who takes what and who he wants and leaves a slew of angry cohorts in his wake. But when Giovanni duels with an important citizen, he may have gone too far and must reconcile with a force not even he can best.

“Giovanni is a famous example of a character that gets away with what he does because of his privilege, except on this day he finds out that karma does not discriminate,” says Outlaw. “It shows us that you always have the choice to do what you want, but there are consequences for every action that we make, so choose wisely.”

This adaptation is set in the mid-20th century, which audiences will see in the costume choice. Historically, Don Giovanni is part of the nobility, but here he’s styled as a rock star or a celebrity, the privileged social class of the contemporary United States.

Sidney Outlaw PHOTO: Kia Caldwell

Martin Pearlman, founding music director of Boston Baroque, will lead the orchestra, and for the first time Boston Baroque collaborates with stage director Chuck Hudson. The staging is key in this opera. Inspired by the staging of the Prague debut of the opera, Hudson has the orchestra at the heart of the stage, with the performers moving around it. Boston Baroque uses Baroque-era instruments and the music is both unique and essential to their productions. Here, Hudson rightfully puts the orchestra front and center.

“The orchestra is a main character, you will see the conductor standing center stage, you will see every one of the orchestra members. We want to feature them,” says Hudson.

Despite the presence of the orchestra, Hudson says, the performance won’t feel like a concert. The cast, in full costume, will be moving around the orchestra and interacting physically and dramatically. Though the set is minimal, the plot is illustrated by more than just the lyrics.

The production runs at The Huntington Theatre for three total performances April 25, 26 and 28. Susanna Phillips, Patrick Carfizzi, Julie Boulianne, Maya Kherani, David McFerrin, Nicholas Phan and Kevin Deas will join Outlaw on stage.

“Don Giovanni” is one of three operas Mozart made in collaboration with Italian librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte. Outlaw has performed in the other two operas in the trilogy and looks forward to completing the trio with this lead role. Historically, this role hasn’t been very accessible to singers of color, making Outlaw’s performance particularly exciting.

“More often than not, we hear people say music is a ‘universal language,’ yet, many times we don’t see that reflected on the stage,” says Outlaw. “There is plenty of room at the table for all of us to show up and participate.”

arts, Boston Baroque, Don Giovanni, music, opera, Sidney Outlaw