Arts and Humanities
7:00 am
Mon February 11, 2013

Mozart Masterpiece Goes Noir

The Kentucky Opera gives Mozart's masterpiece "Don Giovanni" a film noir makeover for the final production of the season. Mozart’s opera (with libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte) is based on the legends of Don Juan, the fictional unrepentant heartbreaker. In "Don Giovanni," the eponymous womanizer seduces Donna Anna then kills her father in a duel -- and that’s just the first scene.

“Don Giovanni” runs Friday evening and Sunday afternoon in the Brown Theater. 

Directed by Kristine McIntyre, this production updates the staging with a set and costumes inspired by 1950s film noir. Kentucky Opera general director David Roth says Company general director David Roth says the elements of noir were already present in Mozart and Da Ponte's story.

“Here we find a morally corrupted antihero, an emotionally scarred femme fatale, and a conclusion that is destined to come but resolves nothing for those who remain standing," says Roth. "Add an inescapable past of the antihero plus an urban setting in the darkest hour of night and you have basically film noir.”

Roth says Giovanni and Anna's psychological flaws "pull them away from the form and structure of 18th century society to the uncertainty of a modern world that is adrift on a sea of desperation.”

To fans of film noir, that rings a bell. The Louisville Film Society partners with the opera Wednesday night with a film noir double feature at the Dreamland Film Center (810 East Market St.). 

The double feature spotlights the Bonnie and Clyde-style "couple on the run" subgenre, with Nicholas Ray's seminal 1948 film "They Live By Night"  and Joseph H. Lewis's "Gun Crazy," a 1950 melodrama about a World War II veteran and a carnival sharpshooter who embark on a crime spree. 

The dramatic black and white tones of noir make an interesting pairing with the soaring highs and lows of classical opera. Imagine a glorious soprano singing "Gun Crazy" Annie Laurie Starr's lines: 

"I told you I was no good.

I didn't kid you, did I?
Well, now you know.
But I've been kicked around
all my life. From now on
I'm going to start kicking back." 

Watch a clip from "Gun Crazy"