Cher Public

Juan and two

I always think of Don Giovanni as half of the greatest opera ever written. Or, actually, about 2/3 of the greatest opera ever written. The first act is a masterpiece of the operatic canon. There’s sex, there’s danger, there’s suspense, there’s humor, and there’s absolutely great music. And there’s also a wonderful sense of ambiguity—for instance, what exactly is Don Giovanni doing in Donna Anna’s bedroom? is it a rape, or something else? Is Zerlina really just a naive young thing? “Batti batti bel Masetto” has such an artificial, coy feel to it that you have your doubts. All of these events converge in the suspenseful Act One finale.  

Act Two starts out with one of the greatest scenes ever composed… Don Giovanni “seducing” his wife Donna Elvira with the help of his servant Leporello who is also disguised as his master. The attraction Elvira feels towards Don Giovanni and the identity politics as Leporello crosses that upstairs/downstairs boundary is wonderfully subversive and sexy. Don’s seduction aria towards Elvira’s maid is simultaneously enchanting and chilling, as it echoes the melodies he used earlier in the opera. And then… the opera inevitably peters out somewhere in the middle of Act Two. The darkly comic elements fade away into a fairly straightforward morality play. There’s an endless succession of arias, all of which are beautiful musically but don’t really advance the plot forward, and by the time the sextet sings “Questo é el fin” I’m always semi-asleep.

How do opera directors handle the sudden transition from sexy/funny to preachy? In many cases, they don’t. They just let the music play out and Act Two doesn’t pack as much of a punch as Act One oh well. The new Royal Opera House production by Kasper Holten does a creditable job of handling many of the problems of Don Giovanni. He sets the opera in Victorian times. The set is a revolving unit of lots of doors and staircases (wow, we haven’t seen that before) with some slightly surreal projections, but Holten’s main “concept” is that Don Giovanni’s downfall in Act Two is not a literal death, but more a psychological isolation. The opera takes a big cut in the final sextet, but more importantly, all the voices are offstage, and the Don is cowering alone onstage. He hasn’t been pulled into the pits of hell. He’s just alone, which is… well, it’s a pretty accurate reflection of how most sociopaths end up in their lives.

Holten also makes the women of the opera conniving rather than victims. Giovanni and Anna’s relationship is presented as absolutely consensual. Zerlina is more mature than usual. Not the innocent young thing but a rather calculating old maid type. Only Elvira is sincere. Don Ottavio in this scenario of course becomes an even bigger tool than he usually is. Of course even Holten can’t make sense of the inertness of the second act, and the succession of static arias. He doesn’t do the common sense thing, which is cut “Mi tradi” as that aria is not in the Prague edition, and also makes absolutely no sense after “Il mio tesoro.” Instead, Holten cuts the final sextet to shreds, keeping only the cheery coda. Holten’s production is like a lot of Royal Opera House productions— earnest, thoughtful, not terribly exciting, but I guess it gets the job done.

His cast ranges is uneven. Maybe Mariusz Kweicien needs to give Don Giovanni a break? His voice has lost a lot of its silky luster, and his characterization isn’t very distinguished anymore. He’s not really sexy, funny, or charismatic—he’s a little of all of those things, but the sum is less than the parts. Alex Esposito steals the show as Leporello. He makes the character kind of a slimy sleazebag. Esposito doesn’t have the richest voice either but his characterization is A+. Antonio Poli is a wooden, unaffecting Don Ottavio, and “Il mio tesoro” sounds pushed and muscled. Dawid Kimberg was totally forgettable as Masetto. Alexander Tsymbalyuk (Commendatore) had perhaps the most impressive voice of the men, but his role is pretty brief.

Malin Bystrom (Donna Anna) is apparently the new Marina Poplavskaya, a beautiful icy blond, with an intriguingly cool timbre. Unfortunately, her upper register is a mess, and she shrieks her way through the role. “Or sai chi l’ónore” shouldn’t make your ears bleed. She also, despite her Grace Kelly looks is stiff and unconvincing onstage. Veronique Gens (Elvira) now looks very middle-aged and her voice has lost its lustre, but she’s still very musical and affecting. She alone among the women makes the character a real woman. Elizabeth Watts doesn’t look or sound like the typical Zerlina—she’s neither pert nor cute. More like an old maid who’s pretty desperate to put a ring on it. Her casting makes the Zerlina seduction seem less like the Don lusting after a pretty young thing and more like the Don going for an easy piece, but I’m not sure that as intentional on the director’s part. Nicola Liusotti leads a stirring account of the score in the pit but for some reason he insists on also playing the fortepiano and his accompaniment is sometimes off with the singers.

Another new September release shows the big opera houses how Don Giovanni should be done. The performance was filmed at the “Steriristerio Opera Festival Macerata” in Teatro Lauro Rossi. It looks to be a tiny theater, and the stage is almost bare. Some walls that are also reflective mirrors, a small trap door that splits the stage into two levels, and a bed or table as props. That’s it. The costumes evoke the 18th century. Really a very barebones production. But the director Pier Luigi Pizzi gets things right— he personregie is thoughtful and convincing and every character comes alive. And the story made sense—the loose ends and ambiguity and changes of tone are just accepted. Pizzi doesn’t shoehorn Don Giovanni into being tragic, comic, sardonic, or preachy. He accepts that it’s all of the above.

Pizzi’s Don Giovanni is an intimate bedroom drama. Everyone is oversexed, but it doesn’t feel sensationalistic. One of the major hurdles in presenting this opera is that the Don is supposed to be a sexy magnetic thing, but he doesn’t score during the entire three hour opera. Pizzi presents an intriguing reason why: his only real relationship is with Leporello.The two have a symbiotic relationship, a bond that is sexual and emotional, so when Leporello sings the catalogue aria, it’s creepy rather than funny. This master/servant relationship extends to the bedroom. Leporello is seen sexing up Elvira when the Don is tired of her, and this doesn’t look to be an isolated incident. In the final sextet Leporello does not join the others—he is shattered and alone without Don Giovani.

The cast doesn’t have the big names of the Covent Garden staging, but they are in every sense superior. For one, all the women sort of look alike. The Don clearly has a type—sexy brunettes. The acting is pitch-perfect, the chemistry between all the characters sizzling. Of course interest lags slightly in the second act—even Pizzi can’t get through that block of greatest hits unscathed—but overall the performance has a tautness, a vision, and clarity that so many Don Giovanni productions lack.

Ildebrando D’Arcangelo (Don Giovanni) and Andrea Concetti (Leporello) are fantastic. They’re both sexy and charismatic and the blend of their voices is uncanny. Marlin Miller (Don Ottavio) is a singer I’d never heard of before but he sings with a beautiful elegance and sense of line. Even Masetto (William Corró) is interesting. The women are just as strong. Myrtó Papatanasu (Donna Anna) can’t quite handle the punishing tessitura of the role but she’s way less shrill than Bystrom, and her Donna Anna is passionate and hot-blooded. This despite the Pizzi production taking a more orthodox approach to Donna Anna—the sexual attraction between Anna and Giovanni is more ambiguous, and the rape is presented as a “maybe.” Carmela Remigio (Elvira) and Manuela Bisceglie (Zerlina) are also very convincing. Bisceglie even managed to make me tolerate “Vedrai carino.” Conductor Ricardo Frizza leads a much leaner, more “HiP” performance than we’d see at the Metropolitan.

  • ML

    Tsymbalyuk would make an interesting Don!

    I don’t care for Frizza, who conducts the other DVD.

  • Here’s a clip on youtube I found of the Leporello/Don Giovanni action:

  • operaassport

    Great review but I must disagree with your first few paragraphs. Giovanni is absolute perfect from beginning to end.

    • Well I disagree. I think Don Giovanni’s second act loses a lot of steam. Almost everything important happens before that long stretch of arias in Act Two. The finale is thrilling. But there’s a lot of dramatic down-time in Act Two in which there really isn’t much to do besides stand and sing. The music is consistently excellent of course but dramatically I don’t think Don Giovanni is as dramatically coherent as Nozze di Figaro or Cosi fan tutte.

      • olliedawg

        You speak my mind, Poison Ivy. As much as I don’t want to admit it, I, too, find Act II of “DG” filled with windy exposition, little plot twists that feel forced, and a whole lotta huminah-huminah. I LOVE the ending, it is absolutely thrilling (if done right), but there’s a long stretch in that act where I start thinking about rearranging my sock drawer.

        • I also think the second act makes the characters kind of intolerable. As I said, the sudden switch from sexy/ambiguous/sardonic to preachy occurs in that second act stretch from “Vedrai cadrino” to “Non mi dir.”

          It’s even more disappointing that this switch occurs with Mozart/DaPonte at the helm. I never think of Mozart as writing “eat your spinach” music but the closest he ever came was the second act of Don Giovanni.

        • DonCarloFanatic

          This is the reason I never recommend Don Giovanni to any opera beginners. The second act is a bore unless you know the music. Even if you do.

          • Don G was my very first opera as a teen. I turned the television on to a production with Quilico father and son as the Don and Leporello, and Carol Vaness as Donna Anna. I tuned in just in the middle of the Anna/Ottavio duet and was completely swept up by their righteous indignation. I found it all rather wonderful but I do remember finding the second act trying. I stuck with it because I wanted to see how it ended. But I remember when Donna Anna got to “Non mi dir”, thinking “Really, is she still on this?”.

            • I think my first ever televised opera was Don Giovanni too. It was a Salzburg video with Sam Ramey as Don G and Kathleen Battle was the Zerlina. I remember thinking Ramey was so charismatic at the time.

        • operaassport

          Which end are you referring to?

      • Dramatically, I much prefer Don G to Cosi but that’s because I lose interest in Cosi‘s silly story. Half-way through the second act, I just wish they would all stop the nonsense, forget about the wedding, take of their disguises, and call it a day.

        Having said that, Cosi carries the its drama through coherently as you say, even if the plot is not to my liking (I have the same problem with all of Rossini’s comedies which all seem to go one for 30-45 minutes too long).

        The problem with Don G is that the story could end at the end of Act I. We get a fully realised drama in the first act, and the vengeance plot comes to a suitable conclusion at the end. But then, Don Giovanni and Leporello somehow make an escape and the story lives to see another act. The escape is manufactured so that we can get a second act.

        Still, though the plot itself is redundant in the second act, from a musico-dramatic perspective, it is expressed so marvelously music that I don’t mind.

  • Gualtier M

    Just a note about the Act II problems in “Don Giovanni” that Poison Ivy astutely enumerated. Da Ponte originally wrote the libretto borrowing from and reworking Giovanni Bertani’s libretto for a 1787 one-act opera for Giuseppe Gazzaniga “Don Giovanni Tenorio”. Since the Gazzaniga opera is one-act, Da Ponte had to create a second act with newly invented action before the big stone guest finale. So a lot of situations that already occurred in Act I are kind of rehashed in Act II to pad out the action before the obligatory final dragging down to hell of the title rake.

    • Thanks for this, Gualtier. I didn’t see it before I made my post above. Makes sense.

  • MontyNostry

    I’m so pleased I’m not alone in feeling that Act II of Don G goes badly off -- especially when ‘Mi tradì’ is omitted -- until the Commendatore makes a reappearance. And for some reason Malin Byström seems to be a bit of a fixture at Covent Garden.

    • ML

      What kind of house omits Mi tradì?

      • A theater that is doing the Prague edition of Don Giovanni.

        • ML

          Wise ass. That was not my point.

          • So what is your point? That “Mi tradi” is such amazing music that it should be shoved into an otherwise Prague-based version of the score, never mind that it puts two elaborate seria arias back to back and keeps the protagonist of the opera offstage for an additional five minutes?

            • ML

              My point, to Monty, is that Covent Garden has never in its long history — correct me if I’m wrong — presented either Prague or Vienna and instead has a “tradition” of varying hybrids with often damaging cuts.

            • MontyNostry

              I was specifically thinking of a performance I saw earlier this year at a smaller, but highly respected house in mainland Europe. I really could have done with ‘Mi tradì’

  • Will

    For me, the same problem occurs in the second act of Magic Flute, as everyone wanders around looking for enlightenment and each other; there are lots of opportunities Schikaneder gave himself to do schtick that can be problematic (particularly if the Papageno isn’t good at schtick). I prefer the second act of Don Giovanni and HATE it if Mi Tradi is cut. I love Elvira, she’s so human with her heart on her sleeve and her music so beautifully expressive.

    • mrsjohnclaggart

      I apologize to La Cieca for my presumption but I think Don Giovanni is quite a bad and thin work, in comparison to the greatness Mozart could achieve in certain of his other operas (with, IMO, Figaro, perhaps Idomineo and Tito the most consistently persuasive.)

      The argument by someone above is as usual hasty: Mozart did encounter libretto problems, because Da Ponte was writing three operas at the same time, waited to the last minute, and viewed Mozart’s work as third in importance. It isn’t clear who wrote what verses for the opera, though Mozart certainly contributed, it is said by some that Casanova, Mozart’s neighbor and pal in Prague, contributed, and there is evidence of other hands. Under the circumstances, what happens scene to scene in act one is hardly consistent in tone nor is it really believable even for a comedy. Act two is more arbitrary still.

      Research on the preparation of the first performance suggests that Mozart also delayed and may even have lost interest, perhaps for lack of faith in his text.

      Musically, Don Giovanni is mostly lesser Mozart. The “masterpiece” syndrome and the perfervid fantasies of E.T.A. Hoffman is to blame for its eminence. No one ever tells us why it is a ‘masterpiece’, except that it’s always talked of that way.

      But in the summer before Don Giovanni, Mozart composed the A minor rondo for piano, one of the most profoundly moving works for that instrument ever
      penned. He wrote the G minor quintet, a work of stunning, overwhelming pathos, emotional power and intellectual control, utterly unique and despite its vast emotional range, all of a piece. Right before that he wrote the magnificent C major quintet. There is also the powerful and fascinating violin sonata, K. 526, in A, and the delectable piano duet sonata in C. Being Mozart, he also wrote A musical joke -“Ein musikalischer Spass” -- to celebrate his father’s death? -- and of course, the wonderful Eine kleine Nachtmusik. (The killing of the father to free the libido is a trope some people think Mozart was consciously or subconsciously exploring in his initial approach to Don Giovanni.)

      I would submit that there is very little in Don Giovanni that matches any of these works musically. Taken as a ‘numbers opera’ there are some great tunes — but the summer before, Mozart had more or less invented what we now call German Lieder by writing Abendempfindung.

      Mozart is Mozart, so the overture in D (but with a memorable d minor start)is impressive but the dramaturgy is silly. “The Stone Statue” was a
      familiar commedia skit, done in different and often obscene versions and it provides the basis for the story as does the by then ancient play El Burlador del Sevilla (evidently what was known interestingly in Italy as Il ateistico fulminante was a version of this, certainly of the story, given in churches!).

      But the opera is a dramma giocoso, officially; in his work book, Mozart called it an opera buffa, not a dramma per musica, it’s a funny or jocund narrative.

      The original singer of Don Giovanni was a 22 year old high baritone, who later sang as a tenor. The Catalog aria, which otherwise has no dramatic reason for being, is an in joke. In a time when it took the better part of a day to get from central Vienna to a suburb (twenty minutes by car today)the idea that a “kid” (tall, very thin, and beardless in a contemporary drawing) could have gotten as far as Turkey, throughout Germany and bedded all those bellas and not so bellas was ridiculous, it’s not even a ‘comic reality’. It’s just (long) shtick for Leporello, who given the slight original Don, gets the lion’s share of lower voice solo singing, especially in act two, which he virtually takes over.

      Mozart the musician rules the trio between Anna, Giovanni and Leporello when she stops the Don from escaping — this has an interesting form but is
      impossibly slow. Having failed, the Don would have pushed her to the ground and hightailed it out of there with his servant in an instant. Instead,
      they stop and sing well shaped art music.

      But what is one to make of Anna’s story and isn’t the actual aria rather cheap (the recitative is a great piece of writing but there is nothing to suggest that she’s telling the whole truth)?

      Why does that figure of Godly justice, the Commendatore, use a dirty trick to snare the Don, grabbing his hand and not letting go? Isn’t that and the sequence of ‘si’s’ and ‘no’s’ funny, silly, however impressive his entrance is? And if we are to experience the Don as a black hearted villain why does he die in the major key (D major, the key of the opera — that’s why — it’s the tonic).

      In fact, after the fantastic imagination of the Statue’s entrance, the scene, it seems to me, degenerates into musical make do. (And why has no one noticed a statue walking?)

      I think (alone?) that this is the make shift work of two geniuses (Da Ponte was an amazing writer) who could not resolve the problems in Prague for Vienna. Of productions I’ve seen, I thought Bieto was best; he just ran with an impulse setting the piece in a gangster written, chaotic, amoral hell. I don’t think it redeems the opera but it is tremendously effective. (And yes, I do admit to loving La Gioconda and Fedora, two quite — what IS the word? — works and even to having a BIG weakness for La Wally and Mara Zampieri!!)

      • Hey mrsjohn! So glad to have you back! :)

      • laddie

        WOW, the first time I have ever read an explanation as fantastically informed as this one. Thank you, Mrs. JC.

      • laddie

        Also I think Bieito, got “Breaking Bad” long before Vince Gilligan ever thought of it. It would have been wonderful to have a video of the Bieito Entführing as well.

      • Bill

        Mrs. JC -- what is wrong with having a weakness for Mara Zampieri? -- she is the last great Tosca
        I have seen and that has been quite a while ago. Most of the Toscas viewed since have been vocal and interpretive gnomes in comparison.
        Great to see you posting again -- do not stray too far.

    • For me, Flute becomes tedious the moment they arrive at the temple. Though the music is divine, the story is preachy and self-important. I couldn’t care less about the trials and I wish Papageno would shut the f&*k up so we can get on with it. Flute is my least favourite of the big 7. I agree with Mrs JC that Nozze, Idomeneo and Tito are dramatically the most persuasive.

  • Sempre liberal

    Ivy, another nicely written review.

    Re “Il mio Tesoro” and “Mi tradi” -- I usually have a different reaction. I view them as the perfect companion pieces. I always thought of Ottavio and Elvira as the sad sacks of the opera, so I look forward to their moments to be in the spotlight singing glorious music.

    I wasn’t aware “Mi tradi” wasn’t in Prague and can be cut. I’m glad it is not cut more often: for me it is one of the best arias in opera. (The three note rise followed by descending notes in her first phrase and in a so many measures in the orchestra -- I think 12 in a row in the minor key section -- that it always seemed to me Elvira hoping for something and then falling back to a sad reality.)

    • Both “Dalla sua pace” and “Mi tradi” weren’t in the Prague edition. I don’t argue with the quality of the music, but I just think the parade of characters coming onstage to sing their big aria in Act Two inevitably becomes very static dramatically.

      • Sempre liberal

        True re. dramatic static. On the other hand, there is something indulgent in exploiting the artifice of theater and just letting 2 singers park and bark a pair of fine arias.

        Ottavio: “Ima stand here and stop all action. I’ll sing high, mainly because I’m a wimp. The real men have more testosterone in this opera. P.S. They’re gay.”

        Elvira: “You wished me gone, as I play the fool. But you’re gonna love my song, especially my clarinets. So suck it, oboes.”

        I like the drama in that. (Admittedly, I often veer into the opera-as-camp camp.)

        • LOL. Don Ottavio is such a tool … I love that the opera ends and he’s still friend zoned …

          • Well, to be sure, Donna Anna cannot properly marry while she is mourning her father, which means six months to a year.

            The timeline of Don Giovanniis notoriously hard to establish, but it’s something between a day and not much more than a day. I really don’t think there was any sense at the time the piece was first presented that Donna Anna was being deliberately coy or frigid; rather, their little duettino in thirds and sixths I would say suggests that they have reconciled. (And what text could be more about reconciliation than “Al desio di chi t’adora ceder deve un fido amor?”)

            • I’ve never thought of DG as playing out in real time, the way Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf or Long Day’s Journey Into Night play out in a concrete timeline. If we were to do an actual timeline it might be:

              Act One Beginning: Don G’s murder of Commendatore
              Act One: The next day?
              Act One finale: Night time in that day

              Act Two: I guess all the antics occur during the night after the masked ball. And I guess the dinner with Commendatore occurs that night.

              It’s not really clear though. I don’t think it’s a stretch to find the Donna Anna/Ottavio relationship weird and a bit off, even if the events are condensed into a day.

            • Say, for example, that the first act plays out from dawn to dusk and the second from dusk to dawn.

              There is also a convention in Italian comic opera that the action takes place in a single day, and while Don Giovanni is not exactly an Italian comic opera, it does use a lot of the conventions of that form.

              There are difficulties, of course, e.g., how the Commentator’s monument, complete with topical inscription, should be in place before the body is even cold, but the libretto is a hybrid of so many sources that there are bound to be some inconsistencies.

  • Avantialouie

    The only way I can make sense of “Don Giovanni” at ALL is for Don Giovanni to be the only truly authentic character in the opera. All the other characters are exercises in hypocrisy and ambiguity. They are examples of how people who blindly do as mama taught them, who blindly follow the monolithic teachings of the church, or who blindly follow the dictates of society necessarily end up with confused, empty, tragic lives. Was or wasn’t Donna Anna raped? Perhaps the reason that no audience in the history of this opera has never been really sure is that she is not sure herself. Her self-assumed sense of guilt for her father’s death is excruciating. And how much of that guilt may possibly be due to the fact that she enjoyed whatever went down with Don Giovanni we can only surmise. Schwartzkopf’s over-the-top hysteria as Donna Elvira is the only interpretation of that character that has ever made sense to me. She is in total self-denial as a rejected love, and apparently bought wholesale the turn-the-other-cheek forgiveness and rabid evangelism that she learned in Sunday school. She and Don Giovanni may or may not have actually been married, but hers is not a word a thoughtful audience should entirely trust. Zerlina is a total opportunist: when plan B fails, she desperately reverts to plan A. She and Masetto will spend the rest of their lives together knowing full well that he was what she settled for because he was the best she could do, all the while pretending that it just isn’t so. She will go to her grave believing that she was betrayed and that her own poor choices had nothing whatsoever to do with her downfall. Don Ottavio loves Donna Anna chiefly because the world has taught him that he is supposed to. He vows to take vengeance chiefly because the world has tuaght him that he is supposed to. All the while his own true emotions regarding Don Giovanni are left tantalizingly unclear, perhaps because he hides them from himself so well. And this is the crew that has the unbelievable gall to appear at the end of the opera and lecture the audience on morality. And so the “good guy” who leads the truly authentic life ends up in hell to “prove” the self-righteousness of the others. And once again, Ralph Waldo Emerson is proven right: “For non-conformity the world whips you with its displeasure.” Perhaps the ultimate irony in this opera is that the voice of morality, Godliness, and virtue in it is a STONE guest. If this opera had been written by Britten instead of by Mozart, Ivy’s review would have relished and celebrated the ambiguity inherent in these characters and the irony inherent in Act II’s “parade of arias.” Mine is a very “nineteenth century Romantic” view of this work, I realize, but Ivy IS right: no other view makes intetrated dramatic sense.

    • Well the thing is you (and I) might find the sextet unbearable/hypocritical/preachy, but the question is whether Mozart/DaPonte intended for it to be that way. There is a lot of ambiguity in the music that makes you ask questions: for instance, did Mozart intend for Zerlina’s arias “Batti batti” and “Vedrai cadrino” to be so coy and annoying, while “La ci darem a mano” is so silky and enchanting (and one of Mozart’s best tunes)?

      It’s sort of like the problem I have with Die Meistersinger. I find the treatment of Beckmesser to be ham-handed, overdone, and really a six hour exercise in bullying. And I don’t think Hans Sachs is this wise old sage — I think he’s annoying. But I don’t know if Wagner saw it that way. In fact, I’d say that the fact that Die Meistersinger is (to me) very annoying and preachy is more a testament to Wagner’s own lack of self-awareness.

    • Indiana Loiterer III

      But what makes you think that Don Giovanni leads any more of an authentic life than the others? I’m not sure there’s that much there on the inside--sure, he seduces a bunch of women and holds a big party, but we hardly get to know how he feels about what he does. He’s not much more than mindless action personified.

  • Buster

    Always love Don Giovanni, in whatever version, and with regardless whichever cast.

    The mask trio is great -- one of my favorite things in any Mozart opera:

    Favorite version on CD: Bruno Walter from Salzburg -- with Rethberg:

    • laddie

      Thanks Buster for the clip above. Can’t imagine a finer cast. And yes, I love Don Giovanni immeasurably, AND The Magic Flute, AND Le Nozze, although I always thought Figaro the better opera.

      • Buster

        My pleasure, laddie. My favorite still is Magic Flute, the only Mozart opera I have more than one recording of.

  • mercadante

    DG has never been my favorite Mozart opera, but not because of any issue with the dramatic structure which IMO is no better or worse than a lot of the libretti of that period, especially those written for non-Italian speaking audiences. I feel no need to over-intellectualize it. By today’s standards, dramatically it is definitely a hoary old chestnut. There have been several successful attempts to make it more interesting to modern audiences, as well as a whole host that haven’t. But like most things that were young and vital once, it’s beginning to show its age. And as much Botox, plastic surgery and hair dye as you use, eventually age will catch up to you. That time is probably here for DG, as well as most operas.

    I’ve always seen DG as a sort of hybrid combo of opera seria, opera buffo and something new to DaPonte and Mozart. Especially in the original Prague version, you see Donna Anna, a Don Ottavio and The Commendatore as opera seria figures inhabiting one sphere with music that reflects seria practices. Opposite you have Leporello, Zerlina, Masetto, who are buffo and their music reflects that being simpler in form and less florid. In between, straddling these two works and bringing them together, are Don a Giovanni and Elvira, the newer archetypes that are neither seria nor buffo but a bit of both. Their music is mainly in ensemble and recitative, their arias are very short (In quel eccesi, Mi tradi is not original to the Prague version). Both characters interact with the buffo and seria characters and bring those two opposed worlds together, bridge them. In that respect I don’t necessarily find Donna Aana’s and Don Ottavio’s arias so intrusively static, mainly because they are musically and dramatically supposed to be so since they are archetypal seria characters and have to express themselves that way. Similarly with Zerlina and her “Batti, Batti” or “Vedrai carino”, they are expressive in the tradition of the buffa soprano of the late 18th century, Anfossi, Salieri, Cimarosa, Paisiello etc. If they no longer speak to us, perhaps that is partially due to changing styles, tastes and ideas and not so much intrinsic faults of the artistic work.