At Salzburg, Don Giovanni Will get No Pleasure From Seducing

SALZBURG, Austria — “Chi son io, tu non saprai,” the stage director Romeo Castellucci mentioned throughout a current interview within the foyer of the Salzburg Pageant’s most important theater. He smiled and gestured to an interpreter, who gave the interpretation: “You’ll by no means know who I’m.”

The phrase is a part of the title character’s entrance line in Mozart’s “Don Giovanni,” and publicizes the work’s strangeness and ambiguity, the best way it shifts between comedy and tragedy. Few stage administrators would appear higher capable of discover and honor its mysteries than Castellucci, who emerged from the world of experimental theater to provide an ongoing collection of summary and enigmatic opera productions.

His staging of “Don Giovanni,” then, is a extremely anticipated assembly of labor and director. Its premiere, on July 26, will likely be broadcast reside on Austrian tv, and the Aug. 7 efficiency will likely be streamed online.

Additionally a lot anticipated is the primary from-scratch collaboration between Castellucci and the conductor Teodor Currentzis, who’ve individually supplied a number of the Salzburg Pageant’s most acclaimed occasions lately. Their “Giovanni” will likely be uncommon — with collapsing church buildings, falling automobiles and pianos, a reside rat and different excessive pictures. However Markus Hinterhäuser, Salzburg’s creative director, mentioned that it isn’t merely inflammatory.

“There may be nothing extra boring than that,” Hinterhäuser mentioned. “That is provocation in an epiphenomenal method: creating areas of notion, of resonance, of seeing. That’s the provocation that’s really attention-grabbing.”

Credit score…Ruth Walz/SF

The competition, which final 12 months was one of many first European performing arts establishments to resume live performances, is now pioneering a return to prepandemic scale. (“Giovanni,” a part of a centennial season initially set for final summer time, is amongst a gaggle of postponed productions.) Whereas many theaters are nonetheless blocking out seats, Salzburg is promoting — and, generally, promoting out — its theaters at full capability. Attendees will likely be required to be vaccinated, examined or lately recovered from a coronavirus an infection; masks have been initially to not be required, however now are after an viewers member examined optimistic following an out of doors efficiency of the play “Jedermann.” And artists are being repeatedly examined.

Castellucci’s idea revolves across the need to re-enchant — to respect the thriller of — the parable of Don Juan (Don Giovanni within the opera’s Italian). “The stupidest and most superficial factor you may do could be to show him into some type of Latin lover,” he mentioned, proposing Giovanni as an alternative because the precept of life itself, a component of chaos or dysfunction that’s each feared and desired, violent and enticing.

“Even within the foundations of the parable,” Castellucci added, “he’s somebody who needs, who wants. And Mozart and Da Ponte” — Lorenzo Da Ponte, the work’s librettist — “solely present us his failures.”

It’s vital that within the piece we by no means see this supposedly nice seducer succeed. For Castellucci, then, Giovanni is consultant of a childlike ego’s seek for love — “the melancholy of the satyr,” which this director understands as beating close to the center of Western tradition.

Giovanni is looking not for countless girls however for one girl, an impossibly excellent synthesis of incompatible types of feminine perfection: mom, lover, prostitute. Desperately looking for wholeness and salvation, he finally ends up destroying others, treating girls solely as objects.

Removed from the stereotypical Casanova determine deriving pleasure from his conquests, this Don Giovanni is each victimizer and sufferer, pushed towards violence by the energy of his needs and by his worry of the trustworthy encounter with the opposite that’s required in any loving relationship.

“I believe he has some childhood trauma,” Davide Luciano, the Italian baritone who performs Giovanni, mentioned in an interview. “I at all times thought that this was the true character; it’s deeper and darker than simply having fun with girls. Casanova enjoys; Giovanni doesn’t and can’t.”

Within the well-known “catalog aria” within the first act, Giovanni’s servant Leporello tells the deserted (however nonetheless smitten) noblewoman Donna Elvira of his grasp’s many lovers — 1,003 in Spain alone. Usually performed for comedy, this sequence is for Castellucci one thing way more critical.

“This can be a horrifying interplay,” he mentioned, “during which people are simply numbers.” In response, Castellucci will fill the stage all through the opera with 150 girls who aren’t skilled actors or dancers. Educated in his exact gestural language by the choreographer Cindy van Acker, they are going to start to set off Giovanni’s downfall.

“The ‘mille tre’ will likely be invested with literal substance,” Castellucci mentioned, “to show the philosophy of the catalog upside-down by occupying all of the area that’s accessible, with these girls who’ve a physique, an age, a biography, a reputation, a historical past — who’re actual individuals.”

Within the first act, Giovanni will brutalize and dominate these girls. Because the second act progresses, although, they are going to start to take management, ultimately main him to hell.

Mozart, born right here in 1756, is Salzburg’s favourite son, and in 1922, “Don Giovanni” was the competition’s first opera manufacturing — carried out by the nice composer Richard Strauss, with the Vienna Philharmonic, which remains to be the home orchestra, within the pit. This 12 months, for the primary time, the opera will likely be performed right here by an ensemble aside from the Philharmonic: Currentzis leads his devoted MusicAeterna, which has been heard at Salzburg in Mozart’s “La Clemenza di Tito” and “Idomeneo” and made its title with a cycle of recordings of the three Mozart-Da Ponte operas.

“I’ve a really sure principle in regards to the sound of ‘Don Giovanni,’” Currentzis mentioned in an interview after a rehearsal, “rooted in Salzburgian church music.”

“It’s a polystylistic opera,” he added, referring to the rating’s mixture of tropes from extreme opera seria and jovial opera buffa, added to orchestrations that recall spiritual music. “I wouldn’t say it’s a prefiguration of Romanticism; it’s already Romantic. Quite, he goes straight to modern music, straight to Alban Berg.”

For Currentzis, the work’s feminine characters replicate completely different kinds of feminine singer: Donna Anna, for instance, appears to have arrived from an opera seria and Zerlina, a peasant lady, from an opera buffa. In Don Giovanni’s sexual and emotional scheme, Elvira represents the mom; Anna, the lover; and Zerlina, the prostitute.

These musical and psychological relationships, Currentzis believes, can solely be introduced out by traditionally knowledgeable efficiency. He has the gamers tune their A to 430 Hz, a quarter-tone decrease than modern orchestras’s commonplace efficiency pitch.

“It’s clearly higher,” Currentzis mentioned. “Mozart composed music at 430 Hz; that was the pitch of the time. When he made the plan of the tonality, he knew precisely what he wished to provide brightness and darkness.”

“When you transpose all the things a quarter-tone up,” he added, “all of the spectral stuff is totally completely different.”

The precision of his work with intonation extends to Currentzis’s expectations of singers and their tone. “It is vitally easy,” he mentioned. “You may have a really tight polyphonic construction, and if all the things isn’t exact, all the things collapses. Now we have a Romantic kind of singing that got here in with the twentieth century, after which singers introduced this Romantic strategy to the operas of Mozart, and to polyphonic music. When the voices have much less vibrato, this helps me to make the structure.”

In his recordings, the distinction in vocal manufacturing from the norm — much more dramatic than what one usually hears in traditionally knowledgeable performances — is straight away audible: more durable consonants; very smooth and infrequently nearly whispered singing; quite a lot of straight, vibrato-less tone. Currentzis insists that even within the Grosses Festspielhaus, which seats greater than 2,100, all this will likely be audible.

“You don’t must have the singer sing louder,” he mentioned. “The orchestra may play softer.”

The singers appear overjoyed slightly than upset by the calls for. “It’s the best factor on this planet,” mentioned the tenor Michael Spyres, who performs Don Ottavio. “It must be alive, and it must be versatile. Mozart is the farthest factor from stiffness.” The decrease pitch, he added, helps the singers to entry extra vocal colours; Luciano, the Giovanni, mentioned he might pronounce phrases higher at this tuning.

“Usually I work with nice conductors,” Luciano mentioned, “however they don’t at all times learn about singing approach. Teodor is aware of about singing.”

He added that he had been “slightly bit afraid” to work with Currentzis and Castellucci, each of whom have well-earned reputations for rigor. However Luciano mentioned that the environment has been “very serene” and that Castellucci “by no means asks for unusual or uncomfortable positions for singers. He’s at all times at our service for the singing, for the music.”

On the finish of the interview, Castellucci mentioned the opera’s finale: a sextet of the plot’s survivors, celebrating the downfall of the central antihero. “We hear how they attempt to reconstitute society with out Don Giovanni,” he mentioned. “However we really feel on this joyous music a horrible nostalgia for this individual, due to the precept of life that he represented. Heidegger mentioned that the artist is a problematizer, somebody who creates issues. That, I believe, is an excellent definition of the entire course of.”

Currentzis felt equally, regardless of the presentation of the title character in all his tortured darkness. “The viewers will criticize him in the course of the intermission,” he mentioned. “However within the corridor, they wish to be him. Don Giovanni does what they need. He has the heart to really do it.”

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