Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Santa Fe Opera Note: Don Giovanni

Standing up in a bookshop at the Santa Fe Opera last night, I read something about Mozart's Don Giovanni that I would sign on to. So: tis said that DG is not the greatest opera in the world, although it has lots of, perhaps the most, greatest operatic music. One after another, these boffo numbers keep crashing over you, but the plot as a whole--well, I define anyone to give an accurate and intelligible account of the second act.

We're here in Santa Fe for a couple of days in our frantic race away from the demons of mortality. The DG performance itself here was passable but patchy. There were some strong singers but they didn't always coordinate well together. There were others who coordinated well but weren't that-all strong. For my money, Charles Workman as Don Ottavio was the prize of the lot--here are some snippet reviews that sound right to me.

I suppose that an opera director, like a general, goes to war with the talent s/he has, but it seemed to me the problem here might have been in the directing. There was a lot of stage business that didn't make a lot of sense--what is this about the Commendatore showing up drunk? And it certainly didn't help that the conducting was pretty tame--I'd think it would take some ingenuity to present a performance of DG where the orchestra did not make your hair stand on end, but this crowd seems to have achieved it.

A propos of nothing, then, I will now tell my favorite DG story. It's about the text-booklet I used to have--one of those that reprints the libretto in three, four, maybe five different languages. Anyway, here we are at the end of "La Ci Darem La Mano," the great seduction song--the pont at which the Don has finally brought her around. In Italian, he says "andiamo," and she purrs "andiamo." The English reflects it: "Let's go...let's go." But the German version says:
Nun komm!
Oh ja!
Now, that's my idea of a seduction scene.

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