Don Giovanni / ROH 2008 (3)

(Previous section here.)

I think the reason that I didn’t enjoy this as much as I feel like I ought to is that while there are a lot of really good individual components to this, I’m still trying to figure out what the overall point is.

We’ve got the identical-looking men, and a lot of moments of female solidarity, e.g. Anna and Zerlina comforting Elvira, and the very fact (in the opera itself) that Don Giovanni tries to get rid of Elvira with the tired old “she’s just a crazy bitch” narrative and it doesn’t work. There are also numerous comparisons of the female characters to the image of the Virgin that’s stuck up on the rotating drum thing. During Ottavio’s “dalla sua pace” Donna Anna has left the stage and reappears up near the top, standing still, right next to the religious image. And there are a lot of “women in high up places” like Elvira in her window (and the maid in the window) in Act II. Again, the thing with the windows is in the opera itself, so it’s not like this is all coming from nowhere. Also, Donna Anna in the first scene where she’s pursuing Don Giovanni, and Elvira in the scene where DG and Leporello perform the bait and switch are wearing the same thing, a sort of blue sheet wrapped the body. So something is being said here about gender, but I’m not sure what it is. And at the end, we get a very familiar form of humor when Donna Anna says “wait a year” and Don Ottavio turns away with a look on his face like “I put up with so much crap from this woman” that makes the audience laugh – it’s a “those crazy demanding weird creatures called women” sort of joke, which doesn’t seem to quite fit with whatever is going on previously.

Along similar lines, there’s the very end, after Don Giovanni has been dragged to hell, and after the final chorus where everyone is now dressed in white and things are ok again (I guess?), where we get a glimpse of Don Giovanni in hell – he’s completely naked, carrying a naked woman in his arms, and he looks pretty happy. It’s as if the opera is attempting to turn itself into a sort of lighthearted and not very imaginative commentary on gender relations – but I’m not actually sure that this is the intention. The point, I guess, is that there is something uneven about the tone of this production. There is some very nice singing in this, and it’s worthwhile for that, but I’m not sure ultimately what it all adds up to.

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