16 September 2006

Don Giovanni Suomeksi

Last night I went to see Don Giovanni at the city theater, which is a modernist box perched out over the harbor adjacent to the main market square in Oulu (the one behind the municipal library in this photo, which by the way I didn't take).

It was a very impressive performance. The music is great, of course, and both the orchestra and the voices seemed to me first-rate. Afterwards I did some research on the baritone cast in the title role, Juha Kotilainen. His voice has so much range he has actually sung counter-tenor in some productions. The action was set on a turntable that generated a seemingly endless parade of young maidens who had been, or were about to be, deflowered by the Don. As for the maidens, they came in all sizes and shapes, except that each had been fitted with a pair of humongous prosthetic boobs. The effect was a little like Mozart Meets Benny Hill.

The theater was extremely comfortable, with plenty of leg room and good sight lines. I noticed that people took their seats without the assistance of ushers, which reminded me of something I had read about Finland—that it’s not a nanny state, and it doesn’t have a “mind the gap” culture. Given the quality of the production, I thought the audience was a little restrained, but then rhythmic applause can only be speeded up, it can't swell. Maybe they just didn’t like it as much as I did.

Anyway, the great thing about opera is that if you’re having trouble with the Italian you can always look up at the sur-titles for the Finnish translation. Luckily, with Don Giovanni it’s not hard to follow the plot.