October 25, 2016 by fredrikcoulter
The second opera of the Met’s Live in HD season was Mozart’s Don Giovanni. I went to see in in Altamonte Springs with my wife. The theater did not have a great food selection — they rarely do — so I saw Don Giovanni with hot dogs. Probably not the most cultured thing I could do, but it filled that empty space.
I viewed the opera primarily as watching Giovanni’s self destruction, driven by his urges. Yes, there were funny moments, but you could tell it’s a tragedy. He was on this road, and there was only one destination in the end.
There was some discussion on FaceBook about Dona Anna, especially about the ending of the opera when she put off her wedding. The question was whether the events of the opera caused her to put off the wedding or if she just wasn’t that much into it. When I think about Dona Anna, I compare her version of what happened between her and Giovanni compared to the opening scene of the opera. There’s significant differences between what actually happened and how she described it. In the opening scene, she wasn’t trying to get rid of Giovanni; she wanted him to stay. Hardly the actions of a person who’s be pursued against her will. As far as I can tell, she was already looking for a greener pasture than that offered by her wedding.
An interesting idea I’d have, and it’s probably already been done, is to have Leporello be the last person on the stage at the end of the production, after everyone else has left the stage. All the other characters have some sort of change in their life through their experiences, but leave Leporello completely unchanged by the experience. He’ll end up the servant of another master, going through life without it affecting him. The quintessential comic relief.
As for the production, I had a couple of thoughts. First, there were minor technical glitches with the sound. Before the opera began, the sound cut in and out randomly. And during the show, there was a second or two gap in the sound. Second, I found the camera work to be a little distracting. There was a scene with a close up of one of the sopranos. She’s a very animated singer, and moved while singing. (This is not, in and of itself a bad thing. My daughter’s vocal teacher described old school opera as “park and bark”, and that turns a dramatic production into a concert set piece.) But the camera operator tried to keep her in the center of the screen, and kept moving the camera. I found myself a bit queasy (or perhaps it was the hot dogs). Pulling the camera back would have avoided having to move the field of view, and would have made me, at least, a little more comfortable.
The musician who played Don Giovanni was interviewed during the intermission. In the interview, he talked about possible connections between the American Revolution and the behavior (freedom) of Giovanni. I think he has a point. The opera was written at a time when freedom was a serious concern in Europe. The American Revolution had ended, and the French Revolutions were on the horizon. The natural limits of man were being tested, and sometimes broken. It makes sense that this would affect literary works of the time. I doubt that Mozart was thinking about America, but American was not the point cause of freedom, just one of the tributaries.