With the #MeToo movement still very much in the news, there might never be a more appropriate time for Opera San Antonio to stage Mozart's Don Giovanni, based on the notorious character Don Juan.
The incorrigible playboy flouts conventional morality by bedding and discarding nearly every woman he meets, but he cannot escape his fiery punishment in the end.
Celebrated soprano Raquel Gonzalez portrays Donna Anna, an aristocratic young woman whose father is murdered by the amoral swain.
It may be Gonzalez's first time performing with Opera San Antonio, but it's certainly not her debut in this role.
The opera runs October 7 and 9, 2021, and is performed in Italian with English supertitles. Tickets start at only $40.
In advance of the new 90-minute production, CultureMap spoke to Gonzalez about her return to the stage following the pandemic, why this story is so timely, and what she's most looking forward to experiencing in San Antonio (hint, tacos are involved).
CultureMap: Raquel, this is your first time working at Opera San Antonio. What are you most looking forward to with this production?
Raquel Gonzalez: This will be my first production since before the pandemic, so I’m looking forward to the simple joys of live music, working in person with other artists again, and returning to stage.
I haven’t worked with most of this cast and creative team before, so I’m excited to collaborate with new colleagues. This will be my third time singing Donna Anna, and there’s always more to learn about the character and new perspectives to incorporate when presenting this piece.
CM: Why is Don Giovanni an important piece to present? How does it speak to today’s audience?
RG: I first sang Donna Anna seven or eight years ago, and it’s incredible just how much the conversation surrounding the piece has evolved, even since then. Unfortunately, the story of Don Giovanni is timeless. It’s easy for audience members to recognize someone they know (or know of) within this cast of characters.
Don Giovanni may be the title character, but the piece is really about the destruction he wreaks on the lives of those he encounters. Often, perpetrators’ stories — rather than those of their victims — end up being centered. Mozart and Da Ponte provided ample opportunities for Giovanni’s victims’ voices to be heard.
Reducing Don Giovanni to 90 minutes is a challenge and an opportunity for all of us to hone in on the heart of this story.
CM: What kind of preparation needs to happen for a role like Donna Anna? How do you portray a character who is taken advantage of by a criminal like Don Giovanni?
RG: When I first performed Donna Anna, conversations about Donna Anna’s altercation with Don Giovanni inevitably started with the question, "Is she telling the truth?"
I think we’ve come a long way from that, and a character like Donna Anna is allowed to be flawed, to have an imperfect romantic relationship, and to be grieving, while having none of those aspects cast doubt upon the truth of her account.
The women in Don Giovanni can often be perceived as wavering between "damsel in distress" and "woman scorned." It’s important to me that Donna Anna be three-dimensional. So many women share her experience, and I’ll feel I’m successful if my performance allows any of those women to see themselves in Donna Anna.
CM: Have you been to San Antonio before? What are you looking forward to exploring in the city?
RG: This will be my first time in San Antonio! I’m excited to visit the River Walk, the Japanese Tea Garden, and Market Square, in addition to the many museums. I’m also looking forward to eating a lot of Mexican food, and I hear there’s quite a culinary scene to take in.
CM: How does it feel to return to the stage after the pandemic has forced so many productions to be postponed?
RG: It feels a bit surreal to finally be returning to the stage after all this time. It may be cliché, but this time away has really made me appreciate every musical moment that I would have otherwise taken for granted.
There’s also a renewed sense of freedom to performing live that I didn’t fully appreciate before. Our tendency as musicians is often to be overly critical and demanding of ourselves, but having discovered how easily it can all be taken away will hopefully allow us to be bold where we might have once been afraid, and to relish the moments we previously let pass us by.
To purchase tickets to Opera San Antonio's Don Giovanni, contact the Tobin Center box office online or at 210-223-8624.