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Opera Cleveland's Don Giovanni ends with a twist



There's a twist at the end Opera Cleveland's production of Mozart's Don Giovanni, but the stage-management crew isn't spilling the beans.

Not that I was digging when I was talking with stage manager Kathleen Edwards and her team: assistants Katy Reeves (a freelancer from Texas) and Erin McCardle (who freelances for Cleveland professional theater companies) and intern Andrew Landis, a recent college graduate from Indiana.

"This is my seventh production of Don Giovanni," says Edwards. "And I haven't ever seen it end this way."

What's at stake is the feeling audiences are left with as they leave the theater, having just watched the prodigious mack daddy of the title — whose sexual contests number in the thousands — descend unrepentant into hell, dragged there by a statue come to life. Depending on the director's choices, his decision not to repent and the fate he suffers as result can feel like a cautionary tale, like justice served or maybe something else.

But a stage crew's role is to make other people's visions come true as if by magic, and this bunch isn't revealing any secrets.

They've become fast, efficient friends in order to whip the show into shape in about half the time usually allotted for rehearsal. The quick turnaround is for both scheduling and cost-saving purposes. They'll be constantly busy until opening night, as well as during each performance.

"We take notes on everything that happens and needs to happen, and make sure that it all happens consistently and safely," says Edwards.

So they know, maybe more than anyone else, all the details of the production. That must make it especially difficult not to leak a few things — like the ending.

"Don't you watch Battlestar Galactica?" asks Edwards, as if an arts reporter had any understanding of the Cylons and their ambush of the Twelve Colonies. The series ended earlier this year, and its finale was a closely guarded secret.

What's certain about the production — aside from the extravagantly beautiful music — is that director John Hoomes has created a memorable contrast by using elaborate, traditional costumes on a stark, modernist set. Hoomes conceived the production — designed by Kris Stone — for Florentine Opera of Milwaukee, where he directed it in 2006. He directed another Don Giovanni with the same set and costumes in Nashville in 2008. His Cleveland cast includes Robert Gierlach in the title role, Alyson Cambridge as Donna Elvira, Janinah Burnett as Donna Anna, Matthew Burns as Leporello, Jonathan Boyd as Don Ottavio, Fenlon Lamb as Zerlina and Scott Conner as the Commendatore. Artistic director Dean Williamson will conduct.

But about that ending: "It's different," is all Edwards will say. "It makes you think."

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