At Salzburg, Don Giovanni Gets No Pleasure From Seducing

by Msnbctv news staff

SALZBURG, Austria — “Chi son io, tu non saprai,” the stage director Romeo Castellucci stated throughout a latest interview within the foyer of the Salzburg Competition’s foremost theater. He smiled and gestured to an interpreter, who gave the interpretation: “You’ll by no means know who I’m.”

The phrase is a part of the title character’s entrance line in Mozart’s “Don Giovanni,” and declares the work’s strangeness and ambiguity, the best way it shifts between comedy and tragedy. Few stage administrators would appear higher capable of discover and honor its mysteries than Castellucci, who emerged from the world of experimental theater to provide an ongoing sequence of summary and enigmatic opera productions.

His staging of “Don Giovanni,” then, is a extremely anticipated assembly of labor and director. Its premiere, on July 26, might be broadcast reside on Austrian tv, and the Aug. 7 efficiency might be streamed on-line.

Additionally a lot anticipated is the primary from-scratch collaboration between Castellucci and the conductor Teodor Currentzis, who’ve individually offered a number of the Salzburg Competition’s most acclaimed occasions in recent times. Their “Giovanni” might be uncommon — with collapsing church buildings, falling automobiles and pianos, a reside rat and different excessive photos. However Markus Hinterhäuser, Salzburg’s inventive director, stated that it’s not merely inflammatory.

“There may be nothing extra boring than that,” Hinterhäuser stated. “That is provocation in an epiphenomenal approach: creating areas of notion, of resonance, of seeing. That’s the provocation that’s really attention-grabbing.”

Credit score…Ruth Walz/SF

The competition, which final yr was one of many first European performing arts establishments to renew reside performances, is now pioneering a return to prepandemic scale. (“Giovanni,” a part of a centennial season initially set for final summer season, is amongst a gaggle of postponed productions.) Whereas many theaters are nonetheless blocking out seats, Salzburg is promoting — and, generally, promoting out — its theaters at full capability. Attendees might be required to be vaccinated, examined or lately recovered from a coronavirus an infection; masks have been initially to not be required, however now are after an viewers member examined optimistic following an out of doors efficiency of the play “Jedermann.” And artists are being repeatedly examined.

Castellucci’s idea revolves across the need to re-enchant — to respect the thriller of — the parable of Don Juan (Don Giovanni within the opera’s Italian). “The stupidest and most superficial factor you possibly can do could be to show him into some type of Latin lover,” he stated, proposing Giovanni as an alternative because the precept of life itself, a component of chaos or dysfunction that’s each feared and desired, violent and enticing.

“Even within the foundations of the parable,” Castellucci added, “he’s somebody who needs, who wants. And Mozart and Da Ponte” — Lorenzo Da Ponte, the work’s librettist — “solely present us his failures.”

It’s vital that within the piece we by no means see this supposedly nice seducer succeed. For Castellucci, then, Giovanni is consultant of a childlike ego’s seek for love — “the melancholy of the satyr,” which this director understands as beating close to the guts of Western tradition.

Giovanni is looking out not for countless girls however for one lady, an impossibly perfect synthesis of incompatible types of feminine perfection: mom, lover, prostitute. Desperately looking for wholeness and salvation, he finally ends up destroying others, treating girls solely as objects.

Removed from the stereotypical Casanova determine deriving pleasure from his conquests, this Don Giovanni is each victimizer and sufferer, pushed towards violence by the energy of his needs and by his worry of the trustworthy encounter with the opposite that’s required in any loving relationship.

“I believe he has some childhood trauma,” Davide Luciano, the Italian baritone who performs Giovanni, stated in an interview. “I at all times thought that this was the true character; it’s deeper and darker than simply having fun with girls. Casanova enjoys; Giovanni doesn’t and can’t.”

Within the well-known “catalog aria” within the first act, Giovanni’s servant Leporello tells the deserted (however nonetheless smitten) noblewoman Donna Elvira of his grasp’s many lovers — 1,003 in Spain alone. Usually performed for comedy, this sequence is for Castellucci one thing much more severe.

“It is a horrifying interplay,” he stated, “wherein people are simply numbers.” In response, Castellucci will fill the stage all through the opera with 150 girls who aren’t skilled actors or dancers. Skilled in his exact gestural language by the choreographer Cindy van Acker, they are going to start to set off Giovanni’s downfall.

“The ‘mille tre’ might be invested with literal substance,” Castellucci stated, “to show the philosophy of the catalog upside-down by occupying all of the area that’s out there, with these girls who’ve a physique, an age, a biography, a reputation, a historical past — who’re actual individuals.”

Within the first act, Giovanni will brutalize and dominate these girls. Because the second act progresses, although, they are going to start to take management, ultimately main him to hell.

Mozart, born right here in 1756, is Salzburg’s favourite son, and in 1922, “Don Giovanni” was the competition’s first opera manufacturing — performed by the good composer Richard Strauss, with the Vienna Philharmonic, which remains to be the home orchestra, within the pit. This yr, for the primary time, the opera might be performed right here by an ensemble aside from the Philharmonic: Currentzis leads his devoted MusicAeterna, which has been heard at Salzburg in Mozart’s “La Clemenza di Tito” and “Idomeneo” and made its title with a cycle of recordings of the three Mozart-Da Ponte operas.

“I’ve a really sure idea concerning the sound of ‘Don Giovanni,’” Currentzis stated in an interview after a rehearsal, “rooted in Salzburgian church music.”

“It’s a polystylistic opera,” he added, referring to the rating’s mixture of tropes from extreme opera seria and jovial opera buffa, added to orchestrations that recall spiritual music. “I wouldn’t say it’s a prefiguration of Romanticism; it’s already Romantic. Somewhat, he goes straight to modern music, straight to Alban Berg.”

For Currentzis, the work’s feminine characters replicate totally different kinds of feminine singer: Donna Anna, for instance, appears to have arrived from an opera seria and Zerlina, a peasant lady, from an opera buffa. In Don Giovanni’s sexual and emotional scheme, Elvira represents the mom; Anna, the lover; and Zerlina, the prostitute.

These musical and psychological relationships, Currentzis believes, can solely be introduced out by traditionally knowledgeable efficiency. He has the gamers tune their A to 430 Hz, a quarter-tone decrease than modern orchestras’s commonplace efficiency pitch.

“It’s clearly higher,” Currentzis stated. “Mozart composed music at 430 Hz; that was the pitch of the time. When he made the plan of the tonality, he knew precisely what he needed to offer brightness and darkness.”

“If you happen to transpose every part a quarter-tone up,” he added, “all of the spectral stuff is totally totally different.”

The precision of his work with intonation extends to Currentzis’s expectations of singers and their tone. “It is vitally easy,” he stated. “You’ve got a really tight polyphonic construction, and if every part just isn’t exact, every part collapses. Now we have a Romantic kind of singing that got here in with the twentieth century, after which singers introduced this Romantic strategy to the operas of Mozart, and to polyphonic music. When the voices have much less vibrato, this helps me to make the structure.”

In his recordings, the distinction in vocal manufacturing from the norm — much more dramatic than what one usually hears in traditionally knowledgeable performances — is instantly audible: tougher consonants; very comfortable and sometimes virtually whispered singing; a substantial amount of straight, vibrato-less tone. Currentzis insists that even within the Grosses Festspielhaus, which seats greater than 2,100, all this might be audible.

“You don’t should have the singer sing louder,” he stated. “The orchestra also can play softer.”

The singers appear overjoyed somewhat than upset by the calls for. “It’s the best factor on the planet,” stated the tenor Michael Spyres, who performs Don Ottavio. “It must be alive, and it must be versatile. Mozart is the farthest factor from stiffness.” The decrease pitch, he added, helps the singers to entry extra vocal colours; Luciano, the Giovanni, stated he may pronounce phrases higher at this tuning.

“Usually I work with nice conductors,” Luciano stated, “however they don’t at all times learn about singing approach. Teodor is aware of about singing.”

He added that he had been “a bit bit afraid” to work with Currentzis and Castellucci, each of whom have well-earned reputations for rigor. However Luciano stated that the ambiance has been “very serene” and that Castellucci “by no means asks for unusual or uncomfortable positions for singers. He’s at all times at our service for the singing, for the music.”

On the finish of the interview, Castellucci mentioned the opera’s finale: a sextet of the plot’s survivors, celebrating the downfall of the central antihero. “We hear how they attempt to reconstitute society with out Don Giovanni,” he stated. “However we really feel on this joyous music a horrible nostalgia for this particular person, due to the precept of life that he represented. Heidegger stated that the artist is a problematizer, somebody who creates issues. That, I believe, is an excellent definition of the entire course of.”

Currentzis felt equally, regardless of the presentation of the title character in all his tortured darkness. “The viewers will criticize him in the course of the intermission,” he stated. “However within the corridor, they need to be him. Don Giovanni does what they need. He has the center to really do it.”

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