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The opera of operas December 3, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Cyprus.

Love, seducation, statues coming to dinner, it’s all in Mozart’s Don Giovanni

Everyone knows the story of Don Juan, the famous seducer of women. Not only did he believe that no woman could refuse him, he also used people around him without any moral questioning as he had no misgivings in allying himself with evil just to satisfy him self. It is on the archetype of this immoral man that Mozart’s highly acclaimed Don Giovanni is based.

This coming weekend you can enjoy Mozart’s masterpiece, often named ‘the opera of operas’, at the Rialto Theatre in Limassol. Presented by the Opera of Cottbus from Germany and the Cyprus State Orchestra, prepare for a contemporary production of high aesthetics where comic elements interchange with dramatic tension. All this is played out to the wonderful music of Mozart and the poetry of Lorenzo Da Ponte.

This opera premiered at the Estates Theatre in Prague back in October 1787 and was named a dramma giocoso or ‘playful drama,’ belonging to a genre which is neither completely comic nor completely tragic. Mozart himself directed all the rehearsals, had the singers come to his house to study, gave them advice on how some of the difficult passages should be executed, and explained the characters they represented with accuracy and detail. He wanted everything to be just perfect, but he wasn’t quite as organised as everyone thought. It has now come to light that the overture of Don Giovanni was written at the very last minute. Rumour has it that on the eve of the premiere Mozart passed a great evening with one of his friends who reminded him, “Tomorrow the first performance of ‘Don Giovanni’ will take place, and you have not yet composed the overture!” Mozart got nervous about it and withdrew to his room, where he found music-paper, pens, and ink. It was about midnight when he began to compose, and he worked straight through until the early hours of the morning.

The next evening, a little before the curtain rose, the copyists had just finished transcribing the parts for the orchestra. Although the musicians had not had time to rehearse the overture, they played it with such precision that the audience broke out into fresh applause. As the curtain rose and the character of Leporello came forward to sing his solo, Mozart laughingly whispered to the musicians near him, “Some notes fell under the stands. But it went well.”

Today, Don Giovanni is recognised as one of the greatest pieces of music ever composed. Directed by the Cypriot born Anthony Pilavachi, the opera was presented with enormous success at the Germany Cottbus theatre last May. The event was given particular prominence as the world celebrated 250 years since Mozart’s birth. In the upcoming production, under the baton of conductor Spiros Pisinos, the beauty of Mozart’s music hits the listener at a deep emotional level and emphasises the various tones and action on stage.

As the curtain draws back in the first act, you see Don Giovanni in the bedroom of his latest paramour, Donna Anna. She is clinging to him madly as she exclaims, “Do not expect me ever to let you escape, unless you kill me.” Matters quickly turn sour and an exchange of insults follows as her father, the Commander, hears her cries and appears on the scene. A sword fight ensues, Giovanni kills the Commander and manages to escape with his servant, Leporello. Donna Anna, who has left to get help, returns with her fiance, Ottavio, to find her father murdered.

After this serious beginning, the opera turns to rather comic scenarios. Expect various practical jokes, disguises, frustrated seductions and pranks. In particular, Don Giovanni is pursued by a distraught woman whom he has abandoned, Elvira, who manages to disrupt his seduction of other women. Don Giovanni gets himself into another sticky situation and escapes from his latest imbroglio by jumping over a wall to hide in a cemetery late at night.

While in hiding, Leporello and Giovanni discover the Commander’s tomb and jokingly ask his statue to dinner. To their surprise, the statue accepts. Later that evening, the statue arrives and summons Giovanni to hell, leaving the others to reflect on the result of Giovanni’s immorality.

As you sit back while the drama unfolds, you may wonder how you’re supposed to judge this famous protagonist. Is he a hero who has managed to stand his own ground as he defies church and convention following his own rules? Or is he purely an immoral wrongdoer evading all responsibility, or worse, a murderer and rapist? Then again, as everything reaches a dramatic climax, you can just relax and enjoy all the spectacle and fun which is what a night out at the opera is all about.

Don Giovani > By the Cottbus-Germany State Opera and music by the Cyprus State Orchestra. In Italian with Greek and English over-titles. December 8 and 9. Rialto Theatre, Heroes Square, Limassol. 8.30pm. £20-25. Tel: 77777745.

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