What does it take to play the world’s most legendary seducer? If you said extraordinary good looks, an imposing sense of masculinity, and an air of being more than a little dangerous, you’d be correct but incomplete, at least if we are talking about playing the lead role in Mozart’s Don Giovanni. For that, you’d need all of the above, plus a brilliant yet creamy baritone singing voice. Fortunately for us, and for Opera Santa Barbara, Mark Walters, who will star in this weekend’s production at the Granada Theatre, has it all. Walters is fresh off of a number of operatic triumphs, including successful performances as Don Pizarro in Beethoven’s Fidelio (with Kentucky Opera in 2014 and Opera Omaha in 2015), Scarpia in Tosca with Sarasota Opera, and Don Giovanni with Seattle Opera almost exactly one year ago.
In Seattle, Walters came onstage riding a motorcycle; this production will be more traditional than that, but it still has a contemporary feeling. The setting and design are based on the genre of film noir, and Walters, whom I spoke with over the phone recently, described it as “a little different — starker and more dramatic.” His take on the character of Don Giovanni is something that has developed over time, and that is in part based on his apprenticeship with the legendary baritone, Sherrill Milnes. Walters said that, apart from his image as a master manipulator, there’s also “a certain impetuousness to Don Giovanni’s behavior. He feels immortal, and he doesn’t really care about the consequences of his actions, but in this particular situation, his recklessness takes him somewhere he hasn’t been before, and as a result he gains a new perspective.”
Asked what is the most important effect that an actor/singer must create when playing this legendary role, Walters replied without hesitation, saying, “You can humanize him along the way, but the audience must approve wholeheartedly when he is dragged off to hell.”
Opera Santa Barbara’s Don Giovanni is Friday, November 6, 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, November 8, 2:30 p.m., at the Granada Theatre, 1214 State Street. For tickets and information, visit operasb.com or call 899-2222.