The Catholic University of America

Feb. 25, 2014

Vocal Students to Perform "Don Giovanni"

Students at Catholic University’s Benjamin T. Rome School of Music will bring a musical masterpiece to Hartke Theatre as they perform their spring opera, “Don Giovanni,” March 20 through 23.

Widely regarded as one of the greatest operas of all time, “Don Giovanni” features music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Italian libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte. Based on the legends of Don Juan, the opera blends comedy, drama, and supernatural elements to tell the story of Don Giovanni, a notorious playboy who has seduced more than 1,000 women.

Part of the appeal of the opera is the relevancy of its themes to modern society, said Director John de los Santos, a choreographer and stage director who has previously worked as director in residence at the prestigious Fort Worth Opera.

“This piece is 300 years old and it still resonates with everyone,” de los Santos said. “These characters are incredibly modern. All of them have problems that are still relevant to adults and college students in particular — jealousy, betrayal, hooking up, partying, etc.”

The opera will be conducted by Danielle Tirilli, president of the Morlacchi Opera Company in Perugia, Italy. Tirilli has been working with CUA students since he participated in Music Fest Perugia with Sharon Christman, head of the Vocal Division and opera advisor for the music school. Since then, he has given master classes at the music school in Italian diction and opera.

Under Tirilli’s tutelage, junior Nathan Blair will conduct one performance of the opera. Blair studies conducting with Professor Murry Sidlin and collaborative piano with Professor Ivo Kaltchev, head of the Piano Division. In the fall, Blair conducted the music school’s production of “Hansel and Gretel.”

Christman said operas chosen each year take into consideration the voice capabilities of the students enrolled in the vocal program.

“We haven't performed “Don Giovanni” for years and years because it requires many male voices and four very strong and flexible female voices,” she said.

“A lot of people think Mozart is easy, but Mozart is the most difficult of all composers to work with,” said de los Santos. “A lot of it sounds very light and easy and quick, but it is a tough opera for professional singers to perform, not to mention young students.”

To prepare for the role, the more than 30 students in the production have been working with Argentinian baritone Gustavo Ahualli, instructor of voice and opera consultant for the show. Ahualli has performed both the roles of Don Giovanni and his servant Leporello.

“This is a huge undertaking, but the students are working really, really hard,” said de los Santos. “I hope audiences will walk away saying, ‘I can’t believe those kids, 19 to 20 year olds, were singing this opera completely uncut. I can’t believe what’s in store for these kids.”

Performances will take place in Hartke Theatre, 3801 Harewood Road, Thursday, March 20; Friday, March, 21; and Saturday, March 22, at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, March 23, at 2 p.m. Tickets are $20 for general admission; $15 for CUA alumni; $10 for seniors, faculty, and staff; and $5 for CUA students with ID. For more information or to buy tickets, call 202-319-5416 or visit




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