When Don Giovanni goes to hell in the current Chicago Opera Theater production directed by Diane Paulus, it is a hell of scantily clad women overpowering him. Though this would probably be heaven to most men, it would seem especially so for Giovanni, who went after each and every woman that he met, to quote the potential future first-husband, “because I could.” But in case there was any doubt what happened to him, a bloody and decomposing Don is shown hanging from a meat-hook to Mozart’s life-affirming finale. Hm. Well, that doesn’t work, to be sure, but so much else does in this production that you won’t want to miss it. The concept is that Giovanni is a ruthless, gun-toting club owner (a precursor to “Phil Spector: The Musical” perhaps?) surrounded by ruthless women (Donna Elvira knees him in the groin at one point) in a colorful though very macabre world that for the most part brilliantly reflects the narcissism of the lead character. But Giovanni has to be a charmer, as well, and if the characters—and most importantly, the audience—don’t feel something for him, the true magic of the work gets lost in the shuffle. None of that matters much, though, when Mozart’s music is as fabulously served up as it is here. Conductor Jane Glover, one the great Mozart interpreters anywhere, keeps things lively and spirited in the pit at all times, and guides the young cast to heights and into a true ensemble where balance is, above all, the top priority. (Dennis Polkow)
At the Harris Theater for Music & Dance, 205 E. Randolph, (312)334-7777. This production is now closed.