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'Don' of a new era

If you go - What: "Don Giovanni" - When: 8 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Sunday - Where: Festival Concert Hall, North Dakota State University, Fargo - Info: (701) 239-4558 Don Giovanni is not a nice guy. In fact, he's a self-indulgent, deceitful, abusiv...

Don Giovanni

If you go

- What: "Don Giovanni"

- When: 8 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Sunday

- Where: Festival Concert Hall, North Dakota State University, Fargo

- Info: (701) 239-4558

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Don Giovanni is not a nice guy.

In fact, he's a self-indulgent, deceitful, abusive, manipulative, love-'em-and-leave-'em womanizer of the worst sort.

Of course, the bad behavior of the title character in Mozart's "Don Giovanni" ends up biting him squarely in the operatic finale and in epic fashion.

Typically, Giovanni gets his comeuppance in Spain. But that's so several centuries ago. Friday and Sunday the Fargo-Moorhead Opera is putting a twist into Mozart's operatic take on the classic Don Juan story, setting the tale in the Hollywood of the roaring 1920s.

Instead of a young nobleman as in the traditional version, in the

F-M Opera version, the rake is a B movie actor. He still kills a man, but in the F-M Opera's version, he offs the boss at the movie studio. And, instead of a servant, Giovanni's morally-challenged sidekick is a publicist.

The change in the context of the opera isn't without precedent, says David Hamilton, general director of the F-M Opera. "And, you know, so many of these stories, the reason they've become the pinnacle of the classic is because the stories are universal."

The production marks the opening of the 40th Anniversary season of the Fargo-Moorhead Opera.

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As bad as Giovanni is - and he's really bad - you might think he could be flat or uninteresting. But, like any effective seducer, Giovanni has a certain appeal to go along with his bad behavior.

Jonathan Carle, who plays Giovanni in the production, says, "It's a weird love-hate thing. I mean, there are moments in this opera where you just can't help but like him."

"(W)e all in society subject ourselves to self-analysis and to the analysis of others whereby we commit to changing what we would really like to do because what we think we ought to do," Carle says. "And Don Giovanni declares his independence from that social dogma so to speak, and that's what's attractive about him to us."

Carle says that that's not to say that we should go around doing bad things. It does, however, by Carle's estimation, give Giovanni an appeal and a mythic quality.

Mozart wrote the opera in 1887. The libretto is by Lorenzo da Ponte. It's in Italian, but no worries. The translation will be projected above the stage.

Carle says it is a "great first opera ... 'Don Giovanni' is one of the great operas. It's very entertaining."

He should know. This is the fifth production of the opera in which he's been involved.

"I can't say 'no' to this opera," he says. "It never gets old."

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Shane Mercer at (701) 451-5734

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