Don Giovanni survived at Wolf Trap on Friday night. There was thunder and lightning, to be sure, but those special effects accompanied not a descent into hell but the storms that passed overhead and wiped out the power just as Olivia Vote, a young mezzo, was gearing up to begin Donna Elvira’s aria “Mi tradi” (“He betrayed me”). All that betrayed her, though, were the lights, which flickered and flashed and then went out, leaving Vote standing in darkness.
There were a few bright hopes, voiced from the stage — first by a staffer and then by Kim Witman, the company’s director, illuminated by flashlights and the gentle glow of exit lights powered by the emergency generator — that the power could be gotten up and running again, but after a few minutes the company conceded defeat. “This guy gets to live tonight,” Witman said when she finally dismissed the audience, taking the stage with Craig Irvin, who played Giovanni. Few present had yet realized the magnitude of the storms, or the fact that the show would be silenced for the whole weekend: Sunday’s matinee performance of “Don Giovanni” was also canceled (as was Saturday’s scheduled performance at the Filene Center of “The Pirates of Penzance”).
It had to be particularly frustrating for the singers: The show had been running for about two hours at that point, so it was heading into the home stretch; Vote (who played Donna Elvira as an aggressive yet endearingly coltish femme fatale, looking a little like Jessica Rabbit — a film-noir caricature — in Vita Tzykun’s costume design) was about to have her big moment, and Irvin was almost robbed of his chance to descend into hell at all, since Wolf Trap is trading off the roles of Don Giovanni and his servant Leporello between him and Ryan Kuster, and Kuster is scheduled to sing it at the two remaining performances Thursday and Saturday. The company has, however, rescheduled Sunday’s performance; it will take place Tuesday, and tickets to the Sunday show will be honored.
This was the model for performances all over the region this weekend: high drama on Friday night, followed by a couple of days of scrambling. At the Castleton Festival, farther west in Rappahannock County, the storm hit earlier, knocking out power just 30 minutes too early to serve as the storm scene in Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville.”
Realizing that it was safest for the audience to remain seated in the Festival Theater rather than try to drive on the narrow and ill-lit country roads, Castleton’s general director, Nancy Gustafson, called on several performers to ad-lib to keep everyone entertained. First up was the violinist Eric Silberger, in town to play for Lorin Maazel, who made clear, in the Fuga movement of Bach’s G Minor Sonata for solo violin and a couple of Paganini caprices, lit by the ushers’ flashlights, that he was a considerable talent; it turned out he had placed fifth in last year’s International Tchaikovsky Competition.
This was followed by some less-noteworthy offerings from the singers, and, ultimately, by excerpts from the second act of the opera, accompanied by a piano hauled out to one corner of the house. Finally, the storm subsided enough to allow a cortege of cars to make its way down the roads, clearing fallen branches as necessary. Castleton wasn’t able to get a generator in time to save opening night of Bizet’s “Carmen” on Saturday — the show has been rescheduled for Wednesday — but it was able to power the festival’s smaller Theater House for a recital of young singers from the Castleton Artists Training Seminar on Saturday afternoon, as well as resurrecting “The Barber of Seville” on Sunday afternoon.