ALAMEDA -- Women love him. Men want to be him. He's the stuff of legends. He's known as Don Juan to some and Don Giovanni to others. The Virago Theatre Company brings the story of this world-class seducer to Alameda in Mozart's "Don Giovanni" Friday and Sunday at Rhythmix Cultural Works.

"It's quite an undertaking," said Virago co-founder Eileen Meredith, who portrays Elvira in the opera. "But we felt it was time to do a work of Mozart's, and I think this is his best one."

According to Meredith, the complex characters, beautiful music and sexy story should make this an audience-pleaser. It tells of Don Giovanni, a young, arrogant and sexually promiscuous nobleman who has never met a woman he could not seduce. With the help of his servant, he manages to love and leave a plethora of women, often with irate husbands and fathers close on his heels. Until, of course, he encounters something he cannot kill or outwit.

"I play Elvira, who has been abandoned by Don Giovanni," Meredith explains. "She vows to seek revenge, but emotionally, she's all over the place. She goes from happy to sad to mad and back again -- very changeable, which is a challenge to portray. This girl really needs therapy, but she also has three wonderful arias, several beautiful duets and more to sing."

Meredith is certainly up to the challenge with nearly two decades of performing in the Bay Area in a wide variety of musical theater and opera productions.

"I've died in the last three shows I've done, and I'm looking forward to being alive at the end of this one," she said.

Internationally acclaimed opera star Olivia Stapp directs.


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"I'm very excited about working with Olivia," Meredith said. "She's been my voice teacher and opera mentor, and I have so much respect for her talents."

Stapp has put together a versatile cast capable of portraying Mozart's complex story of passions out of control with a sprinkling of comedy and even a special effect at the end. Anders Froehlich plays Don Giovanni with Elizabeth Baker as the young bride Zerlina; Ray Chavez takes on the role of Anna's fiancé with Angela Eden Moser as Anna; Jo Vincent Parks is Don Giovanni's hapless servant Leporello; William Pickersgill plays Anna's father Commendatore; with Jason Sarten and Jordan Eldredge alternating as Zerlina's husband, Masetto.

"Many of the singers were my colleagues from San Francisco Opera," Meredith said, "and we have the wonderful Jonathan Khuner as our musical director. He's just brilliant and always finds the best musicians."

While Meredith won't reveal how the company is creating the special effect required at the climax of the production, she does note that they have some "very creative people" working behind the scenes.

"Sometimes our space at Rhythmix can pose a challenge, but our people are doing some very creative set work, and I think 'Don Giovanni' will work very well in our more intimate space," she said.

After the two performances at Rhythmix, Virago moves "Don Giovanni" to the Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St., in Berkeley for performances March 1, 3 and 9. For more information on any of the shows, call Virago at 510-865-6237 or go to www.viragotheatre.org.

IF YOU GO
What: Virago Theatre Company's production of "Don Giovanni"
When: 8 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Sunday
Where: Rhythmix Cultural Works, 2513 Blanding Ave., Alameda
Tickets: $20 students advance; $25 seniors advance; $30 general advance; reserve tickets by going to http://dongiovannialameda.brownpapertickets.com/
Information: email info@viragotheatre.org or call 510-865-6237