REVIEW: Don Giovanni

8:00pm • Saturday, March 25, 2023 • Lydia Mendelssohn Theater

I was skeptical of all the articles I read before attending Don Giovanni that said it encapsulated “the full spectrum of human emotion.” I feel that when I attend live performances, I am easily impressed by talent in singing and dancing, but I’m rarely moved. However, this production of Don Giovanni was genuinely movingThe artists onstage deftly wove between moments of comedy and tragedy, creating an emotional journey that was surprisingly engaging.

Some of my favorite examples include Donna Anna’s reaction after the murder of her father and her duet, “Ah, vendicar, se il puoi, giura quel sangue ognor!” with Don Ottavio, which realistically captured her shock and grief and his devotion.  There were also laugh-out-loud moments, such as the opera’s first interaction between Don Giovanni, Leporello, and Donna Elvira and particularly “Madamina, il catalogo è questo” (although I must qualify that I was more entertained by the delivery of that aria than its contents). Throughout the performance, though her character was often used comedically, I was captivated by Donna Elvira’s complicated combination of longing, betrayal, rage and vengefulness, as well as her piety.

Because I love giving shout-outs to my favorite artists, for this production of Don Giovanni, I want to highlight Sitong Liu (Donna Anna) and Joshua Thomas (Il Commendatore), who had, in my opinion, the most beautiful voices of the evening. Liu’s regality and her icy grief were a stark contrast to some of the more comedic elements of the play, and her voice was breathtakingly clear. I regret that the character of the Commendatore has so few arias, because I would have enjoyed hearing quite a bit more of Thomas’s voice. Finally, my favorite all-around performance was probably from the aptly-named Aria Minasian (Donna Elvira) for her ability to embody both the humor and the darker, more painful emotions of the story. She really had the best facial expressions.

There’s so much to talk about with this opera, but I wanted also to note some dramaturgical choices which were made with this production. The program describes how the production crew wanted to be critical and careful of the themes of abuse and violence towards women, a mindset which I feel they executed well. I could see how they emphasized the relationships and support among community members which make accountability possible in the play, as well as realistically and sensitively portraying the impact of the traumas the female characters experience.

In conclusion, this production of Don Giovanni helped me appreciate opera on a new level. Even though the performance was over two and a half hours long, it remained engaging, and as I continue to reflect on the performance I can dive deeper and deeper into my admiration of the story and the art form.

PREVIEW: Don Giovanni

What: Mozart’s legendary opera, considered one of the greatest of all time, produced by the SMTD’s Department of Voice and featuring the University Symphony Orchestra


  • March 24, 2023 8:00PM
  • March 25, 2023 8:00PM
  • March 26, 2023 2:00PM

Where: Lydia Mendelssohn Theater

Don Giovanni tells the story of “an incorrigible young playboy who blazes a path to his own destruction in a single day” (Opera Atelier). It is based on the story of Don Juan, a fictional Spanish libertine and seducer. The opera is regarded as one of the greatest of all time for its ambiguity between comedy and tragedy, and, of course, its music. This production of Don Giovanni is directed by Mo Zhou, who arrived as an assistant professor of music at the University last fall, and whose directing debut with the Boston Baroque was recently awarded a 2023 Opera Grant for Women Stage Directors and Conductors. The last opera I saw here was Cendrillon in 2021, and that performance gave me goosebumps, so I can’t wait to see how the Department of Voice interprets this famous story.

PREVIEW: Don Giovanni

Don Giovanni

It’s the classic story of that guy who gets around. Don Juan, Dom Juan, Johnny Depp, Don Giovanni, it’s always the same old thing. In Spain, in France, in Italy, and now at U of M, the story repeats itself one more time. This weekend, The School of Music, Theater, and Dance will perform the age old tale of Don Giovanni, a legendary lover’ who ‘makes one too many notches on his bedpost. The opera masterpiece is directed by Prof. Robert Swedberg and stars both graduate and undergraduate students from the department. With music by Mozart and lyrics by Lorenzo da Ponte, this piece is one of the most famous operas ever performed. The libretto will be sung in its original language- Italian- but fear not, surtitles will be projected above the stage to guide all you English speakers out there.

I am currently enrolled in a Romance Languages seminar devoted entirely to this elusive and seductive character, Don Juan. As part of the course, we will be attending the opera. We are also engaging with both the actors and the players behind the scenes. Prof. Swedberg visited our class last week to discuss the process of creating such an opera. He spoke of the liberties he took in adapting the story for a modern audience. For example, the plot takes plays in New Orleans instead of Italy, and in the end Don Juan is dragged to hell by…well I don’t want to ruin the surprise but there is a slightly alternate ending the the original tale. It sounds like it will be a dramatic and exciting performance, sure to please. I’ve never been to an opera at U of M so you can certainly count on seeing me there!

The show will be held at The Power Center on:

November 8 at 7:30 pm//November 9 and 10 at 8 pm//November 11 at 2 pm

For more information about the performance, including buying tickets, click here.

Enjoy the show!