→ Dramma giocoso in zwei Akten MusicWolfgang Amadeus Mozart TextLorenzo Da Ponte
Premiere 5th of December 2021
Premiere series5th / 8th / 11th / 14th / 17th and 20th of December 2021
Introductory matinee 21st of November 2021
Musical DirectionPhilippe Jordan Don Giovanni Kyle Ketelsen KomturAin Anger Donna AnnaHanna-Elisabeth Müller Don OttavioStanislas de Barbeyrac Donna ElviraKate Lindsey LeporelloPhilippe Sly ZerlinaPatricia Nolz MasettoPeter Kellner
Staging Barrie Kosky Stage design & costume design Katrin Lea Tag Lighting Design Franck Evin DramaturgySergio Morabito & Nikolaus Stenitzer Stage design & costume design assistantTheresa Gregor
Don Juan is a figure which crosses boundaries: the boundary between the sexes, the boundary between the classes and the boundary between life and death showing that even cemetery walls don't stop him. He is said to have already loved 2065 women, 1003 in Spain alone, 640 in Italy, 231 in Germany and 100 in France. He is not only poaching in the Christian Occident, but also in the Orient where there were 91 in Turkey (his servant keeps a precise record of this).
In European literature, he has been on his ways since the Counter-Reformation, when around 1620 a Spanish monk recorded his legend in the comedia TheMockers of Seville and the Stone Guest. Quickly he penetrated the stage templates of the Italian commedia dell’arte as well as the classic French comedy. In Prague, Mozart and Da Ponte gave him his most impressive shape in their opera Don Giovanni or The Punished Libertine premiered there in 1787. The elements of farce, comic and tragic opera, in the low and high style, symphonic and sacred music, all occurring simultaneously lead into new virgin territory crossing borders of genre, right up to the rhythmic cacophony of the 1st Act Finale, with the three dance bands all playing at the same time, and to passages in which the chromaticism is driven even into atonal textures.
Giovanni is between all of these languages, he has no music of his own because he makes himself the object of projection for the women he desires: Donna Anna who was brought up in her father’s strict care and who seeks in him adventure; Donna Elvira who has escaped all ties, seeking and hoping to find in him emotional stability; and the lower-class girl Zerlina, who in his arms dreams of social advancement. The labyrinthine sequence of scenes in the opera is framed first by Giovanni’s murder of Donna Anna’s father and then his return from the dead as the "stone guest".
In the Catholic comedia, when Giovanni felt his end was approaching, he begged in vain to be allowed to confess. In the opera, it is the stone guest who wants to protect the rebel from eternal damnation by summoning him to repent – which he refuses. So, despite the fall into hell, it remains disputable who will be the inferior in this duel because the intellectual defiance of Giovanni is unbroken.
With this premiere production, the Vienna State Opera begins a new cycle of the Mozart-Da Ponte operas under the leadership of its musical director Philippe Jordan and directed by Barrie Kosky.
Opera houses and artists always keep coming back to Mozart's Da Ponte operas. Why to them exactly?
Because these three works are central not only within the Mozart repertoire, but in general within the entire opera repertoire. Everything is measured against them: they are the starting point and the foundation stone, and therefore have to be worked on over and over again, and questioned anew - musically as well as scenically. With Don Giovanni we are starting a journey, the effects of which may have the potential to influence the entire repertoire.
Is there a unique special feature of Don Giovanni within the entire (Mozart) repertoire, an aspect that does not appear in the other two Da Ponte operas?
In Don Giovanni the characters stand even closer to the abyss than in the other two Da Ponte operas. It is the first really great opera that points in the direction of Verdi and Wagner. Mozart now crosses a boundary here that he still kept with Le Nozze di Figaro. In Don Giovanni he sets forth an impulse that not only leads his development to a high peak, but also influences what is to come: Die Zauberflöte, Fidelio, Freischütz, Holländer and Ring des Nibelungen - they are all a result of Don Giovanni. You notice it, for example, in the orchestral part: it requires much more technical effort and more commitment on the part of each individual musician.
In your first answer you spoke about the necessity to regularly question works anew: Does that mean that every era has its own truth? Or is there - musically speaking - something timelessly "absolute"?
For me personally, the truth lies in Mozart himself. I keep coming back to this foundation, reading the text carefully, avoiding large, added ornaments, appoggiaturas, mannerisms. One shouldn't forget that Mozart's emotions are very pure, direct and undisguised - the less you add, the more vividly they speak to us from the stage. In short: less is more. At the same time, it is the case today - also with Mozart – that almost everything is possible and can be done. The exciting thing about an international ensemble like the one at the Vienna State Opera is that, although the artists come from all corners of the world, from a wide variety of schools and traditions, you still have to find a common denominator. A common answer.
This is a challenge for an ensemble: one should not just think about a local group of singers, but bigger and wider. I am not interested in a precisely defined number or a specific affiliation to a house. Rather, it is about a common spirit and musical intelligence: how do you deal with the text? With the recitatives? Can you find a language, an expression? To limit yourself to just a beautiful sound is not enough for me. It has to be about getting together and fitting together to find a consistent collaboration and a more long-term dimension. The time factor is also important: one shouldn't think in terms of individual seasons, but rather more broadly and with a wider horizon.
Don Giovanni is an opera buffa, a cheerful opera. Can the dramatic parts of the score also be read from this point of view?
No, because the greatest comedies in particular always have enormous depth, just think of Falstaff or the Meistersinger. Just as Le Nozze di Figaro also has its abysses. Don Giovanni is undoubtedly a black comedy, a nocturnal piece, that plays within the dark shadows. It can get dramatic! The Don Ottavio singer at the world premiere, Antonio Baglioni, was the first to sing the title character in La clemenza di Tito four years later. Today these parts are often viewed as vocally very far apart.
Has a “pigeonhole thinking” developed here that was not intended by Mozart?
It always depends on the singer, even today there are tenors who sing both parts at the same time. In principle, Mozart was very open, for example he did not divide into soprano and mezzo-soprano, but only wrote soprano. I always demand greater flexibility in this area and not rigid categorical thinking. A Susanna must be able, in a few years of course, to sing a Fiordiligi and then a Countess Almaviva. A Dorabella can be a soprano or a mezzo, likewise a Donna Elvira. My dream is to have two singers alternate between portraying Leporello and Giovanni in a series of performances, not as a gag, but because these two characters are two sides of the same coin, and not only in the second act when the two characters trade roles. To depict this through casting evokes a dramaturgical brilliance. It can go even further: a Susanna should grow up to become a Tatjana, soon she may sing Mimì, Elsa or Desdemona. All of this is possible as long as the Mozart foundation is right, to which one should always return. An Iago must be able to sing a Figaro - a Hans Sachs, the Count Almaviva.
Does that also apply to conductors? This obligation to return to Mozart again and again? Of course! This applies to singers, conductors, instrumentalists - and also directors.