Corey Crider, left, will play the main character Don Giovanni who seduces numerous women, including Zerlina played by Hilary Ginther, right, during Saturday’s Festival of Music production of the classic opera “Don Giovanni.” (Photo by Ben Hillyer \ The Natchez Democrat)

Popular opera Don Giovanni to entertain at Natchez Festival of Music

Published 10:47am Wednesday, May 23, 2012

In Prague, one can catch a performance of the opera “Don Giovanni” every single day.

“Literally it’s the most performed opera in the world,” Natchez Festival of Music Artistic Director Jay Dean said.

The opera tells the story of the karmic revenge of the womanizing character more commonly known as Don Juan through the music of Mozart. And the plot has it all — murder, attempted rape, sexual exploits, love, vengeance and hell.

While Southwest Mississippi is quite a distance from the Czech Republic, Natchez residents have an opportunity that they shouldn’t pass up Saturday to catch the opera right on Homochitto Street, Dean said.

The play follows main character Don Giovanni, played by baritone Corey Crider, who spends his days on a conquest to sleep with thousands of women across Europe.

“This man Don Giovanni is constantly destroying relationships,” Dean said.

Dean said the crux of the story — the exploitation of women, is a timeless theme, and the opera tells a classic tale of good conquering over evil.

“It’s about revenge,” Dean said.

The murder comes in when Don Giovanni attempts to rape Donna Anna in Act 1, and her father interrupts. Don Giovanni kills Donna Anna’s father, a military commander, and the supernatural comes into play to enact revenge on Don Giovanni for murder and womanizing.

Dean said nowadays, when music accompanies suspenseful scenes in movies, the tone is stressful. However, with Mozart, the music is always beautiful to the modern ear, even when set to a violent scene.

“(The music) is never not beautiful,” said Dean, who is the composer of Saturday’s performance. “Sometimes it’s sad, sometimes it’s exciting, sometimes it’s sweet, sometimes it’s angry, but no matter what the emotion — it’s always beautiful,” Dean said.

Dean said for a town this size to host a music festival of the size and duration of the Natchez Festival of music is extraordinary.

And perhaps more importantly, “to have a festival of this quality is extraordinary,” Dean said.

Dean said the town should also be grateful for the Margaret Martin Performing Arts Center, which the festival and City of Natchez recently received a $220,000 grant from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History to restore.

Dean said 1927 — two years before the stock market crashed on Black Tuesday — must have been a good year for building auditoriums.

In addition to the construction of Carnegie Hall in New York City and a number of other still-standing auditoriums, Margaret Martin was built that year.

“I’m familiar with almost every auditorium in the state of Mississippi, and I’m telling you that Natchez has a diamond in the rough (in Margaret Martin),” Dean said.

The performance at 7 p.m. Saturday will give residents a chance to appreciate a local landmark that’s been around for nearly a century as well as a crop of talent that have matriculated to Natchez from all over.

“People in this town need to come here to experience quality of these singers who have come here from around the world,” Dean said.

Dean has been the music director and conductor of the Southern Mississippi Symphony Orchestra since 1988.

Friday and Saturday offers the festival’s last three events, including a closing gala following the opera.

Tickets for the opera costing $25 and other festival events can be purchased online at www.natchezfestivalofmusic.com or by calling 601-445-2210.

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