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Alternate Giovannis

Tenor Paul Appleby discusses the challenge of different versions and stagings

Mozart: Don Giovanni

Video:

Luciano Pavarotti - Dalla sua Pace - Don Giovanni

Paul Appleby: You know there are two version of Don Giovanni. There’s the Prague version and the Vienna version. The Prague version does not include Dalla sua pace. That was written later for the Vienna version but there is no Il mio tesoro in the Vienna version. The tradition has been to do both arias for a long time. More scholarly approaches have been trying to make historically accurate reproductions of these two versions.

San Diego Reader: Because that’s what opera is. It’s a scholarly exercise. It’s not entertainment. It’s not about the audience, it’s scholarly. [Read sarcastic].

PA: Sometimes in an attempt to be authentic to one of these two versions they will omit one of the arias. The problem is that if you just dump all the arias for all the roles from both productions into one show then it becomes quite long and I think it disrupts the flow of the story telling. What our director, Nick Muni, has devised in this production is — where doing more of the version with Dalla sua pace — but instead of keeping both arias in their traditional places he has moved Il mio tesoro to the top of the second act. That is very interesting because I think it puts the character of Ottavio much more toward the center of the action.

Video:

Fritz Wunderlich "Il mio tesoro intanto" Don Giovanni

SDR: Right. He always seems as if he’s a peripheral character.

PA: Very much so and I think this is what is so great about what our director and cast are doing. It’s easy to see the characters as foils for Don Giovanni to perform his Don Juan act off of. You notice that Don Giovanni doesn’t have a stand-out aria that we think of besides the champagne aria but Leporello has a much more substantial and structured aria. All the women have gorgeous and powerful arias that are very seriously composed--very dramatic, very psychologically complicated. Giovanni is, if anything, the most ephemeral hard-to-nail-down character. I think that’s why we can’t think of the other characters and secondary to him. Really what compels the audience is our investment in these other characters.

SDR: I think Mozart must be doing that purposefully to create sympathetic character for the bad nobleman to abuse his power on.

PA: Definitely. I’m always reading reviews or commentaries about Don Ottavio being a wimp. First of all, as an actor, I can’t make a judgement of the character I’m playing and then trying to make a representation of that judgement. Even the biggest wimp in the world probably doesn’t think of himself as a wimp. Anyone who was that self-aware would try to fight against it. We need to keep in mind that each of these characters has their own prerogatives and their own journey. The plot of this opera is so well known that there is a tendency to know where the scene is going and therefore omit the path to that end as an actor. In this version we’re being asked to not play the ending before it happens.

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Mozart: Don Giovanni

Video:

Luciano Pavarotti - Dalla sua Pace - Don Giovanni

Paul Appleby: You know there are two version of Don Giovanni. There’s the Prague version and the Vienna version. The Prague version does not include Dalla sua pace. That was written later for the Vienna version but there is no Il mio tesoro in the Vienna version. The tradition has been to do both arias for a long time. More scholarly approaches have been trying to make historically accurate reproductions of these two versions.

San Diego Reader: Because that’s what opera is. It’s a scholarly exercise. It’s not entertainment. It’s not about the audience, it’s scholarly. [Read sarcastic].

PA: Sometimes in an attempt to be authentic to one of these two versions they will omit one of the arias. The problem is that if you just dump all the arias for all the roles from both productions into one show then it becomes quite long and I think it disrupts the flow of the story telling. What our director, Nick Muni, has devised in this production is — where doing more of the version with Dalla sua pace — but instead of keeping both arias in their traditional places he has moved Il mio tesoro to the top of the second act. That is very interesting because I think it puts the character of Ottavio much more toward the center of the action.

Video:

Fritz Wunderlich "Il mio tesoro intanto" Don Giovanni

SDR: Right. He always seems as if he’s a peripheral character.

PA: Very much so and I think this is what is so great about what our director and cast are doing. It’s easy to see the characters as foils for Don Giovanni to perform his Don Juan act off of. You notice that Don Giovanni doesn’t have a stand-out aria that we think of besides the champagne aria but Leporello has a much more substantial and structured aria. All the women have gorgeous and powerful arias that are very seriously composed--very dramatic, very psychologically complicated. Giovanni is, if anything, the most ephemeral hard-to-nail-down character. I think that’s why we can’t think of the other characters and secondary to him. Really what compels the audience is our investment in these other characters.

SDR: I think Mozart must be doing that purposefully to create sympathetic character for the bad nobleman to abuse his power on.

PA: Definitely. I’m always reading reviews or commentaries about Don Ottavio being a wimp. First of all, as an actor, I can’t make a judgement of the character I’m playing and then trying to make a representation of that judgement. Even the biggest wimp in the world probably doesn’t think of himself as a wimp. Anyone who was that self-aware would try to fight against it. We need to keep in mind that each of these characters has their own prerogatives and their own journey. The plot of this opera is so well known that there is a tendency to know where the scene is going and therefore omit the path to that end as an actor. In this version we’re being asked to not play the ending before it happens.

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