Don Giovanni, Acre

Don Giovanni, a cenar teco m’invitasti, e son venuto…”

 It was with a nervous step that I entered Akko, former Crusaders’ courtyard and location for the night’s performance of Don Giovanni.

Walking through the Knights’ Halls, in a flabbergasted, trance-like state, one gets a sense of enigmatic energy and almost mysticism that pervades the air. The magnitude of the fortification and the sheer force and power that once bivouacked here now seems to emanate from the very stones themselves. Indeed, it seems the height of inanity that I put pen to e-paper to try and describe the setting, something that took an aeon to physically construct, in several sentences. I won’t go on. Needless to say, Akko, a UNESCO World Heritage site is definitely one of the places to visit before you die – whether an avid Historian or not.

“Nervousness?”, I hear you say. Let me explain. It was a combination of the awesomeness of the location, the stellar patterns in the black night above our seats, the hot, sultry night, and an impending performance of one Mozart’s greatest operas, Don Giovanni. It was perhaps not nervousness as such, but a sense of timidity that overcame me before the show commenced.

The performance, replete with 21st century apparatus both within the act and external to it, enhanced the comic aspect of Mozart’s opera buffa, making it incredibly accessible to a modern audience. Not a conventional rendition of Mozart’s drama, the more stringent opera aficionados would perhaps be insulted by the lack of gravitas. However, what actions seemed to lack, what with their frivolous and frolicsome gestures, the voices more than made up for, at times poignant and heart-felt and at other moments full of mischievous improvisation.

Don Giovanni, played by Oded Reich was the dandy, wileful, serial philanderer for the night, reveling in his irreverence and role as ‘protagonist’. Aided by his partner in crime, the less amorously successful Leporello, performed by Yair Polishook, the dynamic duo took to the stage and set the tone. Don Giovanni, for all his frivolous actions, strung the drama together with perfect aplomb.

Special mention goes to the vigorous, beautiful, and powerful yet soft Zerlina, played by Alla Vasilevitsky, who escapes succumbing to the charm of Don Giovanni thanks  only to her dedicated and sturdy fiancée, Masetto (Gabriel Loewenheim). Her duet, ‘La ci darem la mano’, rang elegantly into the calm night: sweet enough to melt the heart of any callous crusader, could they have heard it.

The costumes were fantastically flamboyant, alighting the stage with an inimitable magic. The use of cameras inventively accorded the audience a closer and artistic perspective onto the stage and the playful dress of performers. Yet, inasmuch as the sartorial extravaganza was welcome, when sombre scenes arrived, the clothing too turned more conservative.

Although not as fancifully dressed as the cast, the Israel Chamber Orchestra and the Moran Singers, led by conductor Frederic Chalin and directed by Shirit Lee Weiss, gave life to Mozart’s score, following it faithfully and vivaciously whilst coordinating perfectly with the singers.

Special thanks to the Israel Toursim Board for organising the event.Photos courtesy of Yossi Zwecker.

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