Monday, May 24, 2010

Don Giovanni (Movie Glutton Opera Edition)

For the third consecutive year, Kelly and I are attending the Fort Worth Opera Festival.  The Festival's first offering, Mozart's Don Giovanni, was first staged October 29, 1787, in Prague, and has remained a favorite for opera fans.  I sat next to a lady who has seen it 15-20 times, starting with a 5th grade field trip to the New York Metropolitan Opera in the 1950s. 
Don Giovanni, based on the legends of Don Juan, covers many of the stereotypes of what you might picture as classic opera.  It's sung in Italian, of course.  A fat lady sings.  And they repeat themselves, over and over.  Kelly and I decided they squeeze a one hour opera into three hours by singing the same lines.  But the music, as you might expect from Mozart, is beautiful and rousing.  There were not any particular arias or melodies that really stood out to me, but the music was terrific overall.

The opera itself can't decide whether to be a tragedy or a comedy.  Of course, it has elements of both.  Don Giovanni is the lovable rogue; for some reason, women love him--lots of women.  His servant gets some laughs going over the book in which he records the Don's hundreds of liaisons.  Yet he's a manipulative, murderous rapist.  I couldn't help thinking of Tiger Woods.  He's gotten so much negative press; he just needs to find a good composer and librettist to put together an opera about him.  At least Tiger (as far as I know) never raped one of his lovers or murdered her father.  And Don Giovanni gets his due; Tiger just went to therapy.

Before the movies, the opera is one place where people went for entertainment.  I know it's been over 200 years, but I wonder how tastes and attitudes have changed.  Not to harp on somehting, but I can't imagine modern audiences of other media putting up with the repetition found in many operas.  Another thing that bothers me, something that you see in many operas and in Shakespeare, is the mistaken identity theme.  At one point, Don Giovanni trades hats and coats with his servant.  At first the ruse is believable because the servant interacts with one of Don Giovanni's lovers from a distance, but then both of them spend time up close with people who know them well and fool them even in close quarters.  I know it's a simple dramatic tool, but it irks me somehow.
I'm glad I got to see this classic.  The Fort Worth Opera didn't disappoint; they put on some fantastic programs.  Bass Hall is a wonderful venue.  This festival has gotten some terrific, well-deserved press.  I don't know that I'll go back and see Don Giovanni 20 times like my neighbor Saturday night, but I will look forward to the next Fort Worth Opera performance!

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