Weekly Update, Sep 10, 2013

Mozart’s Don Giovanni returns to Hidden Valley

Starting in the mid-1970s, Hidden Valley Music Seminars gained widespread fame for its opera productions and the talent that came to the Carmel Valley campus to make it happen. Then, in late 2011, the HV Opera Ensemble reassembled for a new production of David Conte’s The Gift of the Magi. Now, for its 50th anniversary season Hidden Valley—founded in Southern California by Peter Meckel—has returned director Robert Darling and conductor Stewart Robertson for new stagings: PuSR & RD2ccini’s La bohème, last Septermber, and Mozart’s Don Giovanni, opening this weekend. (Photo: Stewart Robertson, left, and Robert Darling)

Darling, a co-founder of the Hidden Valley Opera Ensemble in 1974, brings a long career as an opera producer, designer and director with companies throughout the U.S. Robertson’s conducting career, concentrated heavily on opera, boasts international credits. In 1975, the HV Opera Ensemble’s first outing was Don Giovanni, a production that was “bought” by Kurt Herbert Adler of the San Francisco Opera for his newly concocted “Opera in the Streets” program and “staged” in some of the city’s busiest roadway intersections.   

Darling proclaims his joy of working with operatic masterpieces as well as new works—like those during his tenure at Central City Opera in Colorado—and “finding out how to get an audience engaged.” Predictably, this was on his mind for the new production. “We cannot look at Don Giovanni as we did in 1975,” he says. He wants the audience to “feel” the singers palpably, “18th century music with 21st century characters.” He hopes those in attendance will be “moved to laughter and compassion for the Don’s unbridled ‘pursuit of happiness’,” deliberately echoing the same words Thomas Jefferson wrote into the Declaration of Independence a decade before the Mozart opera made its initial appearance.  

Without giving too much away, Darling sees the aristocrats of the story as residents of a nearby gated community, Leporello as well set-up to get another manservant job in similar livery, and the likes of Zerlina and Masetto as field workers from… Use your imagination. This view makes no contradiction with the opera; indeed, the opera raises timeless issues of social mores and behavior, “like a county supervisor fondling a migrant worker,” as Darling cheekily puts it.

Don Giovanni will get six performances at Hidden Valley, this Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, and on the following weekend.

I Cantori di Carmel, Sal Ferantelli’s high-achieving community choir, is breaking new ground Friday by teaming up with the Monterey Museum of Art’s Art in the Adobes, for a concert at La Mirada in Monterey. In a short program long on variety, they will sing in the different galleries of the museum’s home-away-from-home overlooking the western reach of El Estero Lake.

Carmel’s Sunset Center’s new season begins this week with appearances by the Michael Feinstein Trio and standup comic Lewis Black.

Joining Zoot Suit in repertory at The Western Stage is The Importance of Being Earnest, directed by William Wolak, opening this Friday in the Studio Theater

Meanwhile, our indefatigable Philip Pearce has contributed his thoughts on Zoot Suit at The Western Stage, and Break a Leg!, a brace of one-acts written and directed by Tom Parks, now on the boards at Carmel’s Carl Cherry Center.

For details and links to all the above, consult our Calendar page.

Lastly, the fall semester of Topics in Music has just started at the Carmel Foundation. Look for the link on our Links of Interest page.

Scott MacClelland, editor