Tag: Don Giovanni

Mozart – Don Giovanni / Salzburg 2006 (3)

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There are a lot of really interesting performances in this. I don’t know if it’s my favorite Giovanni musically – I am not sure I have one of those – but there’s plenty to like about it. Melanie Diener as Donna Elvira has a lovely ringing resonant sound to her voice; the last high notes in “taci, ingiusto core” were really pretty. There is something solid, even at times careful about the interpretation.

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Mozart – Don Giovanni / Salzburg 2006 (2)

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That a production of Don Giovanni might contain some scantily clad women is not going to surprise anyone. (Well, with some exceptions.) But the women in this are not necessarily there to be ogled. There are the women in fur coats who appear during “madamina, e catologo e questo” – but then there are the women cleaning, and later on a little girl. (This reminded me of the Peter Sellars version, which also had a little girl, but she appeared later. Also, come to think of it, that version also played with the question of whether Leporello and Giovanni were different people, like this one.)

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Mozart – Don Giovanni / Salzburg 2006 (1)

Martin Kusej’s production of Don Giovanni is alternately buzzing white light and blue dimness. The thing begins with a large flat image of a group of women in nothing but stockings, lounging on the floor with their backs to the audience. There is a door in this image, and during the overture we see women in trench coats and heels approaching the door, opening it, and stepping inside.

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Mozart – Don Giovanni / Zurich Opera 2007 (2)

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The concept of this production is used to really interesting effect at several points. One of my favorite partes is “batti, batti, bel Masetto,” which Zerlina (Martina Janková) sings not to Masetto, but alone. She’s at the bar and looks genuinely sad – the aria is not a wheedling “you’re not really mad, baby, are you?” number but rather an expression of frustration.

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Mozart – Don Giovanni / Zurich Opera 2007 (1)

I was tempted to begin by saying that someone who had never seen Don Giovanni before would find this production confusing, but on reflection I don’t actually think that this is the case. There are some moderately confusing elements – I will make an attempt at explaining  the woman in white and the three plum-sized rocks of compassion later on – but these are not obtrusive or disruptive.

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Don Giovanni / ROH 2008 (2)

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The ROH put together an extremely high quality cast for this performance. Their Donna Elvira is Joyce Didonato, who in general causes me to grin like an idiot whenever she appears on stage, and this case is no exception. Donna Elvira makes a grand entrance standing on a litter and followed by an entourage; she’s wearing a ragged-looking wedding dress, has a shotgun slung over one shoulder and surveys the scene before her through a spyglass, which she snaps closed in irritation at not finding what she’s after. “A chi me dice mai” is performed in a way that is perfectly of a piece with this entrance. Big and grand and ever so slightly weird. It’s great. DiDonato conveys the bizarrely humorous aspects of this character perfectly (this is evident again in the entrance right before “non ti fidar, o misera”).

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Don Giovanni / Peter Sellars (3)

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With a few exceptions, this is not a production that you would buy for musical reasons alone. It’s well executed in terms of the vocal performances. Hunt always gets me with that beautiful, resonant sound — and it’s a sound that she can shrink down to sound gentle and vulnerable in ways that make perfect sense. Dominique Labelle as Donna Anna sounded slight – her voice seemed too small, and sort of lacked punch, although at times, e.g. with “crudele! ah, no mio bene” and the preceding recitative she can make a really bright ringing pretty sound that is like a much smaller version of what Hunt sounds like. (This is the scene where Donna Anna shoots up. I have gotten so used to people getting high in productions of this opera that it has begun to seem normal – and besides, with Anna that bright, fragile, brittle-sounding music itself gives the impression that this young lady is either not taking her meds or self-medicating: heroin kind of makes sense. But anyway.) This production is one of those Regie versions of Mozart where you end up thinking about it more than listening to it. Because there is, of course, the ending to deal with.

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Don Giovanni / Peter Sellars (2)

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Donna Elvira is a tricky character. I have seen versions of her that were slightly more toward the buffa end of the spectrum (here I am recalling Joyce DiDonato packing a shotgun) and also versions that were intended to evoke a reaction more along the lines of “what a strange/haunted-looking woman, and she seems to be very upset about something.” The tricky thing about the character is probably that she’s very much an eighteenth-century type. If you take the story at face value, she’s a woman who on the basis of a promise of marriage did something – sex – that she did not not want to do but would probably not have done under other circumstances. To a modern audience a woman who reacts as Elvira does to this series of events comes off as strange and sheltered and weird and perhaps an object of pity, but not for quite the same reasons that an eighteenth-century audience would have pitied her. Her clinginess and gullibility are a little embarrassing to watch – but this is part of what makes her interesting.

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Don Giovanni / Peter Sellars (1)

I suppose the way to begin with this is to note that this is a Peter Sellars version of a Mozart opera. With these, you know going in that shit is probably going to get weird. Whether it’s brilliant weird or annoying weird or weird that takes a couple go-rounds to warm up to — well, this is always the question with Sellars, isn’t it?

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In the spirit of April Fool’s Day . . .

Part of me wanted to write a fake review of some kind for April Fool’s Day, but I couldn’t think of anything to write about. Besides, I’m not sure that I could write a parody of one of my own DVD reviews that would be readily distinguishable from the real thing. I would either end up meaning it or it would sound so like something that I might say that I would start wondering whether it wasn’t in fact true.

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Not a Potato

This is kind of the opposite of a potato: a piece of staging the symbolism of which is so obvious and communicates the point so succinctly that you almost cringe:

Poor Donna Elvira. The story mocks her so relentlessly. She gets her own back at times, and there are certain Elviras that I would not want to get on the wrong side of, but it must be admitted that she is the sort of character who is liable to end up with a lapful of Painfully Symbolic Wine.

Donna Giovanni

Let me preface this with a small amount of background information. Donna Giovanni both is and isn’t a production of Don Giovanni. It is a production of Don Giovanni in the sense that you will recognize the music. The whole opera is there, start to (almost) finish, albeit with a piano rather than an orchestra accompanying the singers.

It is not a production of Don Giovanni in the sense that it is an adaptation of the opera by Jesusa Rodriguez. If you are interested in regietheater and fairly tolerant of the limitations of early 80s AV equipment you may find this interesting. If not, then, well, probably not.

I should also add that this is more a piece of theater than it is an opera production. The singing is not international-class opera singing, and many of the parts have been transposed. Also, there are no subtitles.

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I am NOT Sam the Eagle.

Sometimes I have a look at the statistics on all the random stuff I post on YouTube. It occasionally surprises me what gets the most views. For example, this video of part of a gala concert from Berlin in 1997 beats all my other clips hands down. It’s Roeschmann and René Pape singing ‘la ci darem la mano’ from Don Giovanni. As I said, this is less a recital or a concert than a festive occasion (there is a magician mingling with the audience) and musically, this is the heaviest-weight item on the program.

This is not actually a piece that I go looking for concert versions of. I’ve seen it turn silly or schlocky too many times, and in terms of the music, I’m happier to hear it within the context of an actual recording or performance. But this version is fun. Sort of sweet. (Comment by friend looking over my shoulder as I was watching this: “What’s his problem?” Me: “He’s Don Giovanni. Shush.” Friend: “I think I had that dress back in high school.” Me: “Shhhh.” Friend: “She looks . . . . squirrelly.” Me: “Philistine.”)

That friend later sent me this, a reference which anyone who was a child in the 80s will probably understand:

Today in ‘bizarrely out of context’

Did you know that there is an episode of the TV series ‘Angel’ that quotes part of Don Giovanni?

It makes even less sense than you might suppose. It’s “Guise will be Guise,” an episode from season two in which Wesley is pretending to be Angel for reasons I forget, and he and this young lady he’s serving as a bodyguard go shopping for a sort of dark artsy (as in evil magic) gift for her father. In what appears to be a kind of boutique where you can buy expensive shit that does evil stuff, what is playing in the background? An instrumental version of ‘vedrai, carino.’ The melody is on a flute. This is the aria, remember, where Zerlina is telling Masetto that she’ll cure his injuries with some special balm that she keeps . . .well, you can probably guess where, and this is precisely why you don’t take children to Don Giovanni. Anyway. I am sure I could come up with an argument as to why this little musical quotation makes sense (dare me to do it, and I will), but I’m not sure that it’s anything more than an accident.

Bizarre

I bought the CD from which this is taken a while back. I like the recording, but the first time I heard this track, which is Zerlina’s aria ‘vedrai, carino’ from Don Giovanni my reaction to the concept of Kasarova as Zerlina was somewhere between absolutely not and I would like to see this attempted. I don’t know why I found it so odd. I think it’s because I associate her with trouser roles and this would be very different. (And also, she’s a mezzo, and it’s a soprano role — but this often doesn’t make as much difference as you’d think.) But mainly it is because I have seen DVDs of her performing and her stage presence can be downright peculiar.

But there is “bizarre but it ultimately works” and “you think it would work just fine but no one ever wants to talk about it ever again.” I’m still not sure which this concept would be, but since it’s never going to happen it’s kind of a moot point.

Dead art forms can still bite

I was talking to a friend of mine who lives in Dallas and goes to the opera there when she can. She told me a story that I think I am allowed to find funny because I have a feeling no real harm was done.

My friend was at a performance of Don Giovanni, and she was seated near a family with small children the parents of which became increasingly agitated through most of Act I; the whole group left after intermission. My friend’s theory was that they figured that Mozart is Mozart and opera is stuffy and safe and, well, there can’t be any significant differences between Don Giovanni and The Magic Flute, right? And so they brought their children to see . . . sex and violence and revenge.

But as I said, I suspect no harm was done. Although I can imagine the conversation in the car on the way home: “Yes, honey, the bad man was being mean to the ladies, but they worked it out in the end, and he was sorry. He and the first lady’s father had a big fight, but her father isn’t really dead — don’t worry, I know the story,and he comes back in the end so that he and Mr. Giovanni can talk about it.”

“But why was the other lady so mad at him?”

“He played a mean trick on her, and then ran away.”

“What kind of trick?”

“Well, you know how you told your friend Kyle that he could have all your Halloween candy if he would help you build a big fort in the back yard, and after he helped you, you told him you hadn’t promised anything about candy, and he got mad and hit you? It was a little bit like that.”

“But he wanted to build the fort. He had fun. He told me.”

“Exactly. But you still tricked him.”

“Oh.” [contemplative silence] “So how did he trick her?”