Don Giovanni: On the Scent of a Woman莫扎特的道德原則
Just in time for the city’s 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love, the San Francisco Opera presented
Don Giovanni, the second of Mozart’s three brilliant collaborations with Italian librettist, Lorenzo Da Ponte.
This enigmatic opera centres on a wealthy, powerful, charismatic aristocrat without a moral compass who seduces women by the thousands (or so we are led to believe) and mortally wounds the father of one of his victims in a duel. Considering himself above the law and having breathless fun while breaking so many tabus, his damnation is inevitable. From the first dark d-minor chords switching abruptly to sunny D-major, the opera is a roller-coaster of dramatic shifts, deceptions and emotional upheavals until the moral of the story is revealed. Since its first performance in Prague 230 years ago, many have debated the perennial question of its meaning which accounts for this masterpiece being one of the most frequently performed and best loved operas of all times.
What then is this opera’s unsettling, universal appeal? Jacopo Spirei, the director of the Sfopera’s production, likens our fascination to “watching a tornado”. “It feeds off our primal fears of hell, devils, seduction, crime”, it is “exciting, action-packed and challenging but not too uncomfortably so”, and Giovanni is such a “wonderfully seductive creature”. We may even feel “admiration for him because he does not repent in the end, he is not a coward in the face of death.” And, “we can relate to all the characters because they represent different aspects of the human condition.” Besides, Mozart’s music “has the best beginning and best ending ever written!”
由於歌劇 《費加羅的婚禮》在布拉格的轟動，意大利龐蒂尼劇院重金特邀莫扎特再為布拉格創作一部歌劇，莫扎特欣然接受。為此，他選中了歐洲家喻戶曉的人物唐璜為題材，苦苦伏案一個夏天，在開幕式上演的當天早上，交出了最後譜寫的序曲手稿。1787年 10 月29日，《唐璜》首演於布拉格劇院，莫扎特親自擔任指揮，他一登場，即掌聲雷動，演出讚譽如潮，大獲成功。
Give up women? Are you crazy? I need them more than my daily bread, more than the air I breath!” (Don Giovanni, Act II, Scene 1)
Spirei also notes that this opera is a hastily produced sequel to the hugely successful Marriage of Figaro and has many “complications” making it difficult to stage. His approach to such a challenge is “to tell the story that works on many levels and speaks to the widest group of people.” He also stresses that his directing style is as a “leader of a research group effort”. “I know the taste I want, the feeling I want to get out of it, but the path is always discovered in rehearsal and is always unique to the people I have.”
For such a collaboration it is Spirei’s “dream” to work with as accomplished a singer in the title role as Ildebrando D’arcangelo. Having portrayed Giovanni in diverse productions all over the world, D’arcangelo sees his character as a force of nature “full of energy, who lives totally in the moment” and nd “loves women his way, which may appear wrong to us.” It is all about the excitement of the chase. Giovanni's only “real seduction is death.”
Can opera still be relevant today? Spirei is adamant: “Culture is as essential as food…it is what keeps us human.”
Ildebrando D'arcangelo in the title role with Andrea Silvestrelli (Commentatore) Photo credit: Sfopera©cory Weaver
Jacopo Spirei (Photo credit: ©Mary Marshania) Sarah Shafer (Zerlina) surrounded by wedding party (Photo credit: Sfopera©cory Weaver)
San Francisco War Memorial Opera House (Photo credit: ©Joel Puliatti)