Liveblogging: Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” from Vienna (on Saturday)

ACA Giovanni.png

[All aboard the MS Antonacci this Saturday! I would immediately join this Elvira’s motley crew of pirates. I would also sign up in the same breath for Antonacci as the Don herself because Spanish 17th century swashbuckle FTW! (This outfit may be the only redeeming aspect of the costumes. On that note: We will have to revisit the aspect of Donna Elvira in trousers. For research.) – Anna Caterina Antonacci as Donna Elvira in Mozart’s “Don Giovanni”, Vienna/Staatsoper@TADW 1999]

The Eye Bags Summer Festival of liveblogging continues, this time with a pre-2000 Retro Night. It’s the 1999 Vienna Staatsoper (though performed at the smaller TADW) “Don Giovanni”, which will no doubt get quite a bit of snark heaped onto its staging and costuming choices this coming Saturday, Aug. 13th, as of 9 p.m. (UTC+2).

Reasons for this choice were, by popular vote, in following order a) Antonacci b) Pieczonka c) Kirchschlager d) heh, Arcangelo isn’t bad, either! e) oh, look, Schade! f) hey, this is conducted by Muti. Good! g) oh, the heck with the staging, let’s do this one for the singers.

As always, anyone interested is welcome to join the melee. The production is not on YouTube (as far as I know). There is a DVD, however. If you wish to join in and you can’t get your hands onto a DVD copy, leave a comment under this post and we will try to get a working file to you until Saturday.

47 thoughts on “Liveblogging: Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” from Vienna (on Saturday)”

  1. “Summer festival” sounds good, but here it’s 13 degrees and raining today (but a good excuse to spend the evenings in front of the screen). Btw, you forgot to advertise the Champagne to go with the costumes!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, we may need to to do wig bingo, or other drinking games. Either Dr T or I will get back to you with a link, would be great to have you along!

      >

      Like

      1. hahaha! what’s your mind doing? I saw him in Il turco in Italia, he was pretty meh (though the role didn’t help him look more like a dashing mezzo abusing a trenchcoat😉 ).

        …and thanks, will check in the morning, I’m still at work.

        Like

        1. Dashing mezzo in trench is still a better aesthetic to aspire to than Objectified Oriental In Cutesy Pastel Shades PS My Turban Is Bigger Than Yours.

          Like

          1. D’Arcangelo’s acting can have some nice self-irony, but otherwise I’m not much impressed either. Voice-wise he fell a bit flat compared to the Count of the less well-known Markus Eiche when I recently heard him in Munich.

            Like

  2. What an Irene she would make! Pirate, yes — or musketeer?

    vignette1.wikia.nocookie.net/evilbabes/images/b/bd/Justine_de_Winter_(played_by_Kim_Cattrall)_The_Return_of_the_Musketeers_873.jpg/revision/latest/scale-to-width-down/320?cb=20151109094124 — searchterms for many swordplay pinups.

    Will be otherwise engaged here, but always curious: does MCA’s Elvira regard herself as legally married? “Mi dichiari tua sposa” makes her character richer, I think. “It is the performative speech that enacts the deed . . . The same word is used in modern Italian wedding ceremonies and has similar religious and legal connotations. As his ‘sposa abbandonata,’ Elvira could be pursuing a legal case against him under the strictures of canon law.” And visibly ready to enforce it; I’d bet on her against the bullying Don.

    Like

    1. Yes, musketeer or Spanish Capitano!

      I always that of Elvira as married to Giovanni, with the dichiarazione you mention and the three days he lived with her afterwards.

      But then again, perhaps it was more a marriage prospect (which Elvira interprets as she wants to), like he gives to Zerlina with “là ci sposaremo” – also a euphemism for sex. It is ambiguous.
      What made me think about again were the pants, in fact – because that is the typical commedia dell’arte plot of the abandoned fiancée donning men’s clothes and chasing after the scoundrel. Which she has to do precisely because she is *not* married: she is a loose end, seduced, not longer viable for the marriage market, so she needs to tie down this guy or else. Simone might have taken that into account, with also styling Leporello as a zanni?

      Like

      1. As you say. And she appears frequently in Shakespeare also, successful in her quest
        — as in Handel.
        Commedia treats the sexually compromised figure with less respect: “All the women who claim Don Juan as their husband are declared widows.”
        Keefe, quoted above, notes a tendency to regard Elvira as “not a little mad . . .raving . . . neurotic” — moderns’ reaction to the conventional role’s strength of will? “Ich habe Mut.” Reading da Ponte backward sounds more interesting.

        Like

        1. Yes, very good point – perhaps 19th gender ideology, especially of the feminine, ruined our ability to perceive someone like Elvira beyond heteropatriarchy – her actions are always tied back to a subjugated self (sexual object) and all claim of agency beyond that surely is mad or pathetic because no longer seen as appropriately feminine.

          >

          Like

          1. The same, and worse, for Donna Anna’s agony. Nor is “Batti, batti” as cajoling as often performed. The women’s suffering must become their own responsibility, if the audience is to avoid acknowledging its guilt for admiring the Don. Mozart and da Ponte treat the characters with more sympathy.

            Like

          2. A bit away from the main topic, but I thought I’d use the opportunity to maybe gain some insights from this extremely reflective crowd here: In relation to Elvira, I thought again about Leporello and how I’m always so disappointed in him when he plays along with Don G’s mean mascerade in „Ah taci, ingiusto core“. Why is a character, who has so far been rather someone to carry sympathy, also questioning Don G’s conduct, to be the means of this extremely malicious action and also capable of performing this action so well in this really beautiful duet? In some stagings, Leporello is shown as a conflicting character anyway in the first part and „Madamia…“ can be a bit mean, too but not to this extend. In this Vienna staging he was shown rather benign in the beginning so, the character break created by “Ah taci..” was quite pronounced for me here. What did Da Ponte/Mozart have in mind here, maybe showing the audience, who might identify with him in the beginning that he/they are actually not better then the Don himself? Would love to know your thoughts on that, or maybe its all generic knowledge I’m simply not aware of.

            Like

          3. very interesting question, Agathe – and a very good point in a production to address Leporello’s ambivalence, or the different ways men/people may treat women/other people. It is perhaps one of these aspects like the final plea for pardon in Così that don’t work with today’s audiences 1:1?

            There are several aspects at play, I think: First – as FF also pointed out – we are so used to reading Elvira as someone defined by (oh-so-female) romantic love, who is fundamentally betrayed here. But “Giovanni” (both the myth and the opera) stem from a time before the “romantic love” paradigm of the 19t century took over everything. So Elvira, for 18th century audiences, may have been less tragic.
            Then, there’s the usual sexism/classism at play – Elvira is only a woman, Leporello is only a servant.

            Another point is the origin story – the libretto is based on the “burlador de sevilla” with the centrol plot drive of duping/deceiving (also through seduction), but not with the goal of heartbreak. So this “changed outfits and who can imitate whom and cheat out whom” is simply a comedy ploy focused on tricking someone, but not on breaking someone’s heart (as which we would read it today immediately, and how we hear the music).

            And then there is the story of Leoprello as a figure type, what Goldoni made out to be the the “servant”, but which was one of the clowns of the commedia dell’arte before that, a zanni. And zanni are not characters, they are overall principles of life forces – the good, the bad and the ugly of how humans deal with things: trying to fool, and being fooled, embodying primal desires and all the cowardishness and weakness that humans show in dealing with life. They’re not human, so Leporello’s motivation that moment isn’t necessarily psychologically consistent.
            And the zanni go way, way, WAY back to trickster figures that are not “characters”, either – instead ambivelent harbingers of both culture and mayhem, half-divine figures thought up by most cultures to find a way to express the craziness of both cruelty and tenderness that mark human life: embodying opposites, being both smart and dumb, both kind and mean. If you try to analyze figures based on tricksters psychologically, they would fall somewhere on the dissociated spectrum, I think?
            So I think what stagings today need to do is account for the fact that we don’t recognze that zanni type as easily anymore, at least not in opera, and have (post-enlightenment) forgotten to deal with things through him. So directors need to either really delve into the zanni here, or give Leporello a motivation and make him more ‘human’ to integrate him into a cast of characters that are drawn from ‘imitating nature’.

            (and if we go back a little fruther still, we come to a point where both Giovanni (Juan) and Leporello (Diego) were tricksters messing with other people, and in the oldest versions, they’re playing with Death/Pedro (what would be the Commendatore in Mozart/da Ponte) and see who can dupe whom. At the point where Tirso de Molina – a monk – wrote down the play, Juan had to die in the end, but I would bet, given other folklore traditions, that there were older tellings where Juan cheated Death out of its victory and went on cheating and deceiving people.)

            Sorry, this probably does not answer your question, really. In a way, I think Leporello is resembling Papageno, who has similar roots: interested in food and loking after pretty girls, and trying to be brave, but actually being very cowardish, and still being very sympathetic and relatable most of the time. Giovanni threatens him into the disguise, too – the libretto says “in collera” – just like he threatens him into inviting the statue.

            Like

          4. How very interesting and thanks a lot for taking the time to write all this down. I clearly need to read up more on the historical context of works and in this case it helps a lot in understanding the ambigous nature of this character. How funny how a readily accepted „Zanni“ for historical audiences becomes a personality- or dissociative disorder for modern audiences. Still, as you say, I think, in modern stagings it would be very intriguing to emphasize (and trying to offer explanations for) the unpredictable nature of the „Zanni“ in a „human“ Leporello, which could make for a very interesting character. (In case you happen to know Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, I read those during holidays and was quite fascinated by the ambivalent nature of most of the characters).
            Regarding Papageno, I see the many similarities, however, I don’t sense that maliciousness in Papageno. After all, Leporello, although first pushed to participate, then really enjoys himself in deceiving Elvira.
            Btw. I love the Papageno of Christian Gerhaher in the Salzburg 2006 Magic flute which I have to watch with the kids all the time, a very funny and likeable interpretation.
            The question if 18th century Elvira was „less tragic“ is more difficult for me to grasp, since it is beyond my imagination that Mozart wrote this only with a little joke in mind, but, then, I think he was quite an ambivalent character as well (as shown in the Amadeus movie :-))?

            Liked by 1 person

          5. You are right, Papageno is different in that the threatening side is missing completely. I didn’t think that through earlier… I love Gerhaher’s Papageno! I am not sold on the staging overall (I am so through with Magic Fute sets that look like the “Kids have been drawing an IKEA shower curtain” aesthetic and try to play it ingenue), but he does a wonderful job and I always use his interpretation whenever I can in classes. I also love Kümeier in that one.

            Elvira and “less tragic”: that is actually a larger topic I’m thinking about on and off – the way we view Mozart, and how Mozart is (also for me) the center of everything, in a way, but how that also is part of a way we have been taught to hear and to feel.

            Mozart, in the 1780s, is precisely at the threshold of the romance model, his characters (of course, particularly the women) show a new depth (or have we simply been taught to read them that way?) and it makes Elvira not “funny”, but much more tragical than earlier woman characters. It was, I would argue, a time of change, with the idea of “a woman is born for love and is feeling vs. man’s ratio” still not there, but already dealing with new ideas of identity, authenticity and emotion. I don’t think Elvira is written as a joke, or as the figure to be laughed at in that scene. I think the libretto puts actually more focus on her, yet the tradition this scene stems from is one of role reversal (the focus and fun point for the 1780s audiences may well have been Giovanni and Leporello switching class). And then there are the legal issues we spoke of above, with Elvira not necessarily chasing Giovanni only because she loves him, but because she depends on marrying him to restore her social position.

            As for Leporello enjoy himself with Donna Elvira – perhaps even Papageno might back me up on this: if you’ve got a woman way out of your league throw herself at you in the dark, you may consider kissing first and putting up protest later ?

            Like

          6. Chuckle, you got a point there, but what makes me want to slap Leporello in that scene is mainly his demonstrative laughing, not so much his actions.
            Lots of food for thought about Elvira and in that historical context, I also like very much what fitzfulke said on Mozart/da Ponte viewing their characters with sympathy, it seem they were ahead of their time in that regard?

            Kühmeier, yes!, very good, also in interaction with Gerhaher and I always wonder why these two do not end up together, would make so much more sense in a modern setting. Ikea shower curtains, snort, I don’t mind that so much, and it’s probably precisely why my kids love it, but I do feel uneasy at the display of Monostatos and his “tribe”. This production has fun acting from most of the cast (did you notice Sarastro hitting on the QofN in the end?).

            Like

          7. oh, clearly I need to rewatch this. (reminds me of that intermission footage from Bergman’s Drottningholm Magic Flute movie where in the break, the Queen is sitting under the no smoking sign with a lit cigarette…) And I think it is a really good production for kids. Personally, I am always interested in the gray areas and violence between Sarastro/the Queen, and Monostatos (especiallly in blackface) really needs to be consciously addressed in the 21st century. The “tribe” felt appropriating to me, too. I’d also vote for Pamino to marry Papageno, he clearly is the kinder man who would not sacrifice her to an ideology.

            Leporello’s laiughing – good one, I was so focused on the costume change I didn’t think about that part. Partially, part of the comedy tradition, I’d say, but today, you could always stage it as a helpless ‘social’ laugh, or as a laugh at himself in the inappropriate clothing which, to his spurprise, works (even though it shouldn’t by the logic of birthright and class).
            Mozart/da Ponte may have been the birth of a new age – of couse there were important steps on the ladder before that, but this “never judging tehri characters” is really a crucial thing, and that’s really only at this level known to me in Moazart and Shakespeare (of course I may have this perspective because of the canon I was taught and how it was taught to me, but it doesn’t change the fact that for whatever reason, this is ,more or less the center of the human universe for me).

            Like

          8. Yes, that Bergman Magic flute is a nice one, but lacks the bonus of the singers’ charming accents in German, which I loved to copy as a child (today most have quite impeccable pronounciation, a pity, I think).
            I really need to focus on my paper now…

            Like

          9. Good luck with the paper!

            Oh yes, classic awkward German that after hearing it for 100+ times you can imitate perfectly (also works with the Abduction). Very endearing at times.

            >

            Like

          10. I’ll ask Thadieu about tomorrow, but she asked for Sat. – seems she is swamped with meetings at the moment. If not this, then perhaps next week again?
            Your Sunday plans can’t be beaten anyway! Just last night, I stumbled across the Musikfest announcement again and thought “daaaamn, that has to be good”. Enjoy!🙂 And I’d love to hear some of your impressions afterwards!

            Liked by 1 person

          11. Another “tragedy” Così, and an intriguing one – the violence is all psychological here, the mood somber and cold, with a very fashiobale veneer. (and Gardina wears her pants so very well!)

            Liked by 1 person

          12. …and her haircut! I enjoyed her and Fritsch’s performance and their interaction in this one, but wasn’t much impressed with the guys (and minus points for Fritsch’s hairstyle).
            If I don’t particularly notice the conducting it’s probably good, but here, I had some issues with rather slow tempi, and in the faster passages singers and orchestra were often not well together. Maybe this impression also underlines that the Aix Cosi was really a very good performance in musical terms.

            Liked by 1 person

          13. Yes, musically I really enjoyed Aix – took them a bit to get settled in, but then it really picked up drive (but I am very fond of the Freiburger in the first place).

            Also, YEEEEEES to the haircut.🙂

            >

            Like

  3. “Out of your league” — this was my first thought when I saw Agathe’s question, so I am glad you took it up, after your lot of other very instructive thoughts that did not occur to me, thank you indeed for those.

    Leporello is a servant, in a drama that is harsher about class than Figaro was. His status when dealing with an aristocratic woman is very ambiguous, and it is easy to suppose him willing to take advantage of male power (Giovanni’s as well as his own) to compensate for various humiliations by his master. He is also, I feel, somewhat like a child who is too much in a parent’s confidence, too much an extension of parental will, and whose own personality becomes fissile.

    There is an interesting overlap of the Trickster Zanni figure with the servant: Sancho Panza, Figaro, Leporello, Schweik. And of course, Petibon on air guitar. We sympathize with them when they appear in relation to power, but they have other sides, and Figaro too loses faith. Rosen says that the Marriage attains complete democracy when the servant feels as entitled to jealousy as the master does; Mozart may be at the center of everything because he lived and wrote when emotions became equally available to all: Cosi Fan Tutte.

    As class status dissolves and the opportunities for purely personal importance increase, so too does the importance of personality: the modern dilemma of constantly necessary interpretation of others. I think it’s Rosen who notes that Mozart, utterly able to charm with music, showed more and more doubt about charm. Even Papageno gets roughly handled, and Cosi is ambiguous partly because it so remarkably lacks the Pasha/Contessa/Titus/Sarastro to show how people should behave.

    Like

    1. If we see “human” Leporello as a child, abused by his parental figure, his behavior in taking on the abuser’s role when given the chance makes much sense. I hadn’t thought about this, maybe because the class factors are not so present and readily understandable to us today.
      Much more food for thought, thank you!

      Like

      1. This also links to what you said yesterday, that today we conceive figures/people differently and need to explain them differently – kind of fitting post-Rousseau individuality to older ideas of being a copy/servant to someone.

        Like

      2. An earlier attempt at this reply seems not to have appeared; if it does turn up, please excuse repetition. You might enjoy Auden on Mozart and class: http://www.artsjournal.com/postclassic/2005/10/auden_on_mozart_et_al.html
        “Monostatos must make his bad impression
        Without a race, religion, or profession.”
        Mozart, Da Ponte, Beaumarchais, lived at a turning point, when class was strong but strongly questioned. The characters in the operas, rooted in tradition and type, are individuals, not so interchangeable as in many earlier plots.
        With individualism comes personality and its impact; with the breakdown of class roles comes the modern need to interpret experience and interactions on the fly, to decide what to believe, whom to believe. Rosen notes that Mozart, an artist in complete control of his power to charm, was growingly skeptical of charm, rather like Jane Austen. The artist’s sympathy is also for shortcomings and selfishness, and for those wounded by both.
        Overt class systems do make power usefully visible, and they continue in 19thC operas. Fully bourgeois plots aren’t common, and Traviata is the only tragedy I can recall offhand.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Thank you for this! Saved away for future reference..
          Is is that class systems continue, but lack the religious component in the 19th century, being transferred to money/education?

          Like

        2. Thanks for pointing this out and for suggesting Auden’s poem. I had to read this twice and look some things up (and still do not understand every single line), but it was worth it! And so funny, too.

          Like

    2. True, the patrirachal authority in Così is Alfonso, but he is only the string-puller on the sidelines – will need to think about that.

      ‘Emotion becoming available to all’: yes, that point precisely! – and also, emotion becoming universal (at least as a fiction) – that ‘alle Menschen werden Brüder’ belief, with love as a separate entity not as a consequence of status or possessions.

      the ‘extension of parentla’ will in intriguing because in zanni structures, you often have pairs, remnants of which appear in the white clown/Buffoon pair. They are believed to be split versions of older truckster figures, but figures like Leporello might still have structural elements of this ‘being tied to another figure as a pair’ – like Stan and Ollie, who only make sense together.
      It was Goldoni who streamlined the Trickster Zanni into a ‘servant’ (also bcause he did not fit enlightenment order of emotion) as a social biography. These figures appeared as servants before (Sancho Pansa), but not esclusively – the definying category was marginalization. Apparent still in much of the Shakespeare clowna/fools who don’t necessarily figure as servants, but clearly as outsiders who can comment on the world and its order.

      Like

      1. The marginalized pair, yes, thank you. The first production of Godot in Paris costumed Didi and Gogo as clowns; it was Peter Hall’s English premiere that presented them as tramps. Thanks too for pointing to Goldoni. How beautifully structuralist, that the single servant zanni has, count them, two masters.

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s