When the Dallas Opera opens its second season at the Winspear Opera House Friday, the production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni will be John Pascoe, all the way. He's the director, and it's his concept, his set, his costumes and his interpretation of the inner life of the characters.
“I never do the usual. I work directly from the text and the music. Then I create a complete personality for each of the roles,” he says. "Two examples: the first time we see Donna Elvira, she is carrying the baby she bore from her encounter with the Don. Then, I told the Don that a successful seducer is different in his approach to each of the women, like with the younger Zerlina, he needs to be the boy-next-door type.”
“Don Giovanni has ruined the lives of countless women,” he says. “We lose sight of that fact when we hear Leporello’s comic listing off of the numbers of conquests. Each one is a tragedy left behind.”
But Pascoe’s Don Giovanni is not just a heartless cad who is unaware of his impact.
“Giovanni loved Elvira, a scary thought, so he runs from that," Pascoe adds. "He realized that Elvira had the power of being; his life of conquests crashing around him. You have to remember that Giovanni is a public figure. ‘Don’ is a title, after all. Like one of today’s politicians, a public scandal would ruin him. This is why getting caught with Donna Anna when the opera opens sets in motion the seeds of his eventual downfall.”
The cast assembled for the Dallas Opera production is “…from a stage director’s heaven," the director says. "They are all so perfectly suited to their roles physically that you could use this cast for a film.”
Paulo Szot would certainly fit that description, He is best known for his Tony-winning turn on Broadway as Emile de Becque in Lincoln Center's 2008 mega-hit revival of South Pacific. His appearance in a cabaret venue in New York caused the usually more tightly corseted New York Times to gush, “Paulo Szot smolders. With his sultry bedroom eyes, pencil-line mustache and enigmatic half-smile, this Polish-Brazilian baritone is every inch the traditional Latin lover projecting the compressed heat of a boudoir bandit.”
And you thought that only the Mona Lisa smiled like that. But, if that is not the perfect description of Don Giovanni, what is?
But it is not just the physical. Pascoe says that “…the voices are also just right. There are three soprano parts. Frequently, they are not all that different, although Zerlina is usually a lighter sound. Here, all three are so distinct that there is not doubt who is singing what.”
With all this concept and sub-textual character development going on, it might just seem like this is Pascoe’s unique stamp.
However, he notes that the audience shouldn’t notice the director’s touch. "It has to be real for the audience," he says. "I work hard early on to convey my thoughts, and then I slowly remove myself so as to let the characters come to life on their own.”
As to what he expects when the curtain opens, he said that beauty is its own reward. “If I can leave the theater and say that it was beautiful that night, then I am a happy man.”
¤ There will also be a live simulcast screening of Don Giovanni, in Annette Strauss Square, on the west side of the Winspear Opera House, at the opening performance, 7:30 p.m. Oct. 22.