Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Early Gluck arias at the Wigmore Hall

If composers had to be categorised as either conservatives or radicals, Christoph Willibald Gluck would undoubtedly be in the revolutionary camp, lauded for banishing display, artifice and incoherence from opera and restoring simplicity and dramatic naturalness in his ‘reform’ operas.

Das Rheingold, Opera North

Das Rheingold is, of course, the reddest in tooth and claw of all Wagner’s dramas - which is saying something.

Peter Grimes in Princeton

The Princeton Festival presents one opera annually, amidst other events. Its offerings usually alternate annually between 20th century and earlier operas. This year the Festival presented Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes, now a classic work, in a very effective and moving production.

Scintillating Strauss in Saint Louis

If you like your Ariadne on Naxos productions as playful as a box of puppies, then Opera Theatre of Saint Louis is the address for you.

Saint Louis Takes On ‘The Scottish Opera’

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis took forty years before attempting Verdi’s Macbeth but judging by the excellence of the current production, it was well worth the wait.

Anatomy Theater: A Most Unusual New Opera

On June 16, 2016, Los Angeles Opera with Beth Morrison Projects presented the world premiere of Pulitzer Prize-winning composer David Lang's Anatomy Theater at the Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater (REDCAT).

Shalimar in St. Louis: Pagliaccio Non Son

In its compact forty-year history, the ambitious Opera Theatre of Saint Louis has just triumphantly presented its twenty-fifth world premiere with Shalimar the Clown.

Jenůfa, ENO

The sharp angles and oddly tilting perspectives of Charles Edwards’ set for David Alden’s production of Jenůfa at ENO suggest a community resting precariously on the security and certainty of its customs, soon to slide from this precipice into social and moral anarchy.

The “Other” Marriage of Figaro in a West Village Townhouse

Last week an audience of 50 assembled in the kitchen of a luxurious West Village townhouse for a performance of Marriage of Figaro.

West Wind: A new song-cycle by Sally Beamish

In a recent article in BBC Music Magazine tenor James Gilchrist reflected on the reason why early-nineteenth-century England produced no corpus of art song to match the German lieder of Schumann, Schubert and others, despite the great flowering of English Romantic poetry during this period.

Florencia en el Amazonas, NYCO

With the New York Premiere of Florencia en el Amazonas, the New York City Opera Steps Out of the Shadows of the Past

Idomeneo, re di Creta, Garsington

Opportunities to see Idomeneo are not so frequent as they might be, certainly not so frequent as they should be.

Don Carlo in San Francisco

Not merely Don Carlo, but the five-act Don Carlo in the 1886 Modena version! The welcomed esotericism of San Francisco Opera’s extraordinary spring season.

Jenůfa in San Francisco

The early summer San Francisco Opera season has the feel of a classy festival. There is an introduction of Spanish director Calixto Bieito to American audiences, a five-act Don Carlo and two awaited, inevitable role debuts, Karita Mattila as Kostelnička and Malin Bystrom as Janacek's Jenůfa.

Musings on the “American Ring

Now that the curtain has long fallen on the third and last performance of the Ring cycle at the Washington National Opera (WNO), it is safe to say that the long-anticipated production has been an unqualified success for the company, director Francesca Zambello, and conductor Philippe Auguin.

Nabucco, Covent Garden

Most of the attention during this revival of Daniele Abbado’s 2013 production of Nabucco has been directed at Plácido Domingo’s reprise of the title role, with the critical reception somewhat mixed.

The Cunning Little Vixen, Glyndebourne

Four years ago, almost to the day (13th to 12th), I saw Melly Still’s production of The Cunning Little Vixen during its first Glyndebourne run. I found myself surprised how much more warmly I responded to it this time.

London: A 90th birthday tribute to Horovitz

This recital celebrated both the work of the Park Lane Group, which has been supporting the careers of outstanding young artists for 60 years, and the 90th birthday of Joseph Horovitz, who was born in Vienna in 1926 and emigrated to England aged 12.

Opera Las Vegas: A Blazing Carmen in the Desert

Headed by General Director Luana DeVol, a world-renowned dramatic soprano, Opera Las Vegas is a relatively new company that presents opera with first-rate casts at the University of Las Vegas’s Judy Bayley Theater. In 2014 they presented Rossini’s The Barber of Seville and in 2015, Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. This year they offered a blazing rendition of Georges Bizet’s Carmen.

La bohème, Opera Holland Park

Ever since a friend was reported as having said he would like something in return for modern-dress Shakespeare (how quaint that term seems now, as if anyone would bat an eyelid!), namely an Elizabethan-dress staging of Look Back in Anger, I have been curious about the possibilities of ‘down-dating’, as I suppose we might call it. Rarely, if ever, do we see it, though.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Juan, a film by Kaspar Holten [Photo courtesy of official web site]
06 Jul 2011

Juan, a film by Kaspar Holten

I recently got the chance to see Juan, the Kaspar Holten film version of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, at the Seattle International Film Festival.

Juan, a film by Kaspar Holten

By Barbara Miller

Above: Juan, a film by Kaspar Holten [Photo courtesy of official web site]

 

It is indeed an English adaptation, presented here in the US with English subtitles, updated to a modern European city (filmed in Denmark and Hungary). “Juan” lives in a loft, from which he carries on ‘The Woman project’, which is essentially his effort to seduce a zillion women, with his Russian sidekick “Lep” taking clandestine video and stills of the assignations (his famous Catalogue Aria is sung to Elvira with a Macintosh laptop in his hands, the folders of which contain the visual records of the seductions). The film opens at a performance of “Don Giovanni”, where Ottavio introduces Anna to his friend Juan, and the vibes between them lead her to part from her police chief father and fiancé Ottavio after the performance in order to meet Juan in a café. We see a tryst at her house, which is interrupted by the return of the father, who goes after Juan with a gun, which goes off in the struggle, mortally wounding him. The Anna-Ottavio duet is sung as they load the father into the ambulance and ride to the hospital. This is the first of many instances in which characters’ motivations, which are left ambiguous in the opera, are clearly spelt out (people like to argue about whether Anna has been seduced or raped—in our day people assume the former, given the nature of the Don Giovanni archetype, but the 19th century saw it differently).

Lovers of the opera will be disappointed at the many musical cuts. In the first act, I counted the following omitted arias: Masetto’s “Ho, capito”, Elvira’s “Fuggi il traditor”, Anna’s “Or sai chi l’onore” (although the recit is left in, with flashbacks to a passionate lovemaking with Juan all the while she’s telling this story of a rape to the police), Ottavio’s “Dalla sua pace” (also “Il mio Tesoro” in the second act—he essentially sings the two ensembles in the first act and some recitative) . In the second act there are more cuts—none of the scene between Leporello and Elvira, none of the ensemble in which the characters confront Leporello, nothing of the beating of Masetto (and Zerlina’s “Vedrai carino” is cut). Interestingly, and somewhat annoyingly to me as a woman, it’s always very clear that the three women are completely under Juan’s spell: “La ci darem” takes place in a cab going back to Juan’s loft, and continues in the loft as they take their clothes off and start to have sex, only interrupted by the fact that Elvira has gotten there first; Anna’s retelling of her meeting with Juan speaks to the masculine fear of a woman crying rape after sex that he considered to be consensual; Elvira is as obsessed with him as she is in the opera, becoming a tragic rather than comic character as she drowns herself after singing about half of “Mi tradi”. On the other hand, both Ottavio and Masetto walk when they find out they’ve been deceived by the women: Masetto is clearly sexually drawn to Zerlina while she sings “Batti batti, but he keeps turning away from her, and says “It’s over” to her at the end of it; Ottavio takes Anna’s returned engagement ring and walks out between the recitative and aria sections of “Non mi dir”. It’s not pleasant to see the men portrayed as somehow stronger than the women when it comes to resisting the temptation to be drawn by sex into something that’s going to hurt them. I suppose the director’s argument would be that no human woman has the sexual power that the larger-than-life masculine force of Don Giovanni has.

The supernatural elements are essentially removed: instead of a stone statue coming to life, there is a shadowy hooded figure that Juan keeps seeing at crucial points when he’s behaving exceptionally badly (the killing of Anna’s father, the party at his loft where the first act finale takes place, etc.). There is a sequence where Juan and Lep encounter a street shrine with a photo of the dead police chief—Juan is seeing the shadow figure while he’s making Lep invite the police chief’s picture to dinner. The final trio takes place in a hijacked car in a high speed chase by the police, with an encounter in Juan’s mind between himself and this shadowy figure (who is singing the Commendatore’s part)—the figure turning out to be Juan himself. Needless to say, there’s no final envoi with the characters coming out to say what will happen to them next (The two other couples have broken up, and Elvira’s dead).

The overall rather grainy look of the movie includes many visual statements about what’s going on. The consensus of the people who saw the film with me is that it works well as a movie; captures the “Don Juan” archetype and its impact very well. I would not say that it’s a particularly good introduction to the opera; too many cuts, essentially the director using the opera to tell the story, rather than Mozart doing it through the music. Recitatives are partly sung, partly spoken, and carry much more of the drama than they would in the opera. Maltman acts well and sings well enough (One person heard some intonation problems, but I felt he acquitted himself well, and he certainly looks the part: he is most naked singing “Fin ch’ha dal vino” in the shower, although the sex scenes are quite explicit. There are many closeups of his frequently unshaven face. Elizabeth Futral as Elvira did a nice job with the arias that were left to her (the opening one, which is interrupted by Don Giovanni, and the duet in which he convinces her to go to an assignation elsewhere—in the opera she unknowingly has this tryst with Leporello, in the movie no one ever shows up, leading her to sing the recitative and part of “Mi trade” as she walks down into the river). Mikhail Petrenko as “Lep” was fine, both acting and singing; in some ways I think his character was the most successful and amusing of the updates. Maria Bengtsson as Anna acted well (as did everyone) but her performance of the fiendishly difficult “Non mi dir” didn’t do the music justice, I think. Peter Lodahl as Ottavio and Ludwig Bengtson Lindström as Masetto acted well but didn’t really have enough to sing to judge. Katijya Dragojevic as Zerlina got more to sing than they did, and she did her music justice—it was also absolutely clear that Juan was not seducing a virgin here.

Barbara Miller

Click here for trailer.

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):