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Posted by angela On February - 12 - 2012 0 Comment

I thoroughly enjoyed Mozart’s Don Giovanni at Vicenza’s Teatro Olimpico, although I wasn’t expecting to.  When it started, the idea of a cast dressed as South American gang members (rather than Mafiosi), the absence of scenery, and the unbearable heat in that superlative theater without ventilation all combined to irritate me, but then, hypnotized by the music,  my discomfort melted away.  What’s more, because of the simplicity of the spectacle, I have a perfect memory of the voices and the acting of the interpreters.

In the past, I have attended at least three live performances of this difficult but marvelous opera, but my most vivid impressions have always been of the scenography, or the costumes, or the idiosyncrasies of the director.  I will never forget the casket with the Commendatore’s corpse that was carried down the main aisle amidst the audience in Mario Martone’s version at the Teatro San Carlo in Naples, but ask me about the singers’ voices, or their acting skills, or even the music, and I can’t recall any details.

leporello con iPad

The Teatro Olimpico version however, is full of these details for me.  There is chubby, humorous Leporello who uses his iPad to scroll through the Don’s catalog of conquests, with his round, heavy belly jutting out during the clothing exchange with his seducing master, and his complicit, satisfied expression as he croons, “Ma in Ispagna sono già mille e tre!”  He cuts a figure straight out of the Commedia dell’Arte.

Don Giovanni

And what about Don Giovanni, a character arrived directly from a Francis Ford Coppola movie?  I loved the fact that after being struck a mortal blow, rather than lay dying, he stood up, redressed, and walked off stage left.  Was this choice decided because the Olimpico lacks a curtain, or to remind us that seduction, cunning, and bluster never really make their exit in this world of ours?

It will be difficult to forget the raw sensuality shown by Zerlina when she sings “Vedrai carino” to her poor Masetto, or her wriggling like a cat in heat during “Batti batti”, with Masetto drunk on libido.

Zerlina e Masetto

Nor can I imagine fading from memory Elvira’s twisted mouth as she sings “Mi tradi quell’alma ingrata.”  Perhaps I’ll forget her, but certainly not her beautiful voice, or her bold entrance on stage with her shoulder strap slipped down, perhaps alluding to a wardrobe error a la Janet Jackson at Yankee Stadium?  Who advised her to wear that dress?

The only things I recall about Donna Anna and Don Ottavio are their voices.  They were young, svelte, attractive, but I struggle to picture their expressions.  Perhaps they just weren’t that remarkable, or perhaps, as often happens with gorgeous performers, the spectator remembers their beauty, and not their professional abilities.  His good looks didn’t prevent three young girls in the front row from standing up and walking out during Ottavio’s only full aria, the ethereal “Il mio tesoro”, that Mozart had composed for the Prague opening.  Would they have done the same toward the end of that vapid film The Tourist that was filmed last year in Venice with Johnny Depp?  I wonder. . .

Text by Angela Migliorati Novek ©2011- all rights reserved


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Categories: Opera in English

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