Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Guardian's Stuart Jeffries asks: "Don Giovanni – hero or villain?"

Randal Turner as Don Giovanni
In the Don Giovanni that has just opened in Paris, the eponymous hero has become an irredeemable sex pest of a businessman. Too much power and sex has corroded his soul. Perhaps you work with him. Perhaps you are him. At the end, in his nocturnal office, Giovanni is stabbed through the heart by the co-worker he sexually assaulted in act one, thrown through a window by a crowd of downtrodden cleaners, at least one of whom he tried to grope, and then accompanied to hell by the rotting corpse of the CEO he murdered at the outset. Twenty-first century moral? Don't stay late at the office.

Markus Werba as Don Giovanni
The desperate Don's comeuppance, though, strikes me as unfair. As Kierkegaard noted in Either/Or, Don Giovanni is the opera's erotically animating presence. "His passion resonates everywhere; it resonates in and supports the Commendatore's earnestness, Elvira's wrath, Anna's hate, Ottavio's pomposity, Zerlina's anxiety, Mazetto's indignation, Leporello's confusion. As the hero in the opera, Don Giovanni is the denominator of the piece." Take him away and you're left with the bourgeois moralising of the opera's epilogue – an epilogue that any director worth their salt would cut were it not for Mozart's music.

Duncan Rock & Richard Crichton talk to Gaydar's Neil Sexton and Debbie Ryan

In Carlos Saura's 2009 film Io, Don Giovanni about the life of Mozart's librettist Da Ponte, the hero becomes a projection of the librettist's desire. In Claus Guth's 2008 succès de scandale in Salzburg, the mortally wounded heroin user – Giovanni – is imagined as the creation of the desires of all three women (Zerlina, Donna Anna and Donna Elvira) he usually spends the opera mistreating. Women want him, men want to be like him. In Guth's treatment, the usually pious Donna Anna kills herself because she can't have him. No matter that he killed her dad. [Read entire article HERE]


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