At Salzburg, Don Giovanni Gets No Pleasure From Seducing

SALZBURG, Austria — “Chi son io, tu non saprai,” the stage director Romeo Castellucci mentioned throughout a latest interview within the foyer of the Salzburg Festival’s predominant theater. He smiled and gestured to an interpreter, who gave the interpretation: “You will never know who I am.”

The phrase is a part of the title character’s entrance line in Mozart’s “Don Giovanni,” and publicizes the work’s strangeness and ambiguity, the way in which it shifts between comedy and tragedy. Few stage administrators would appear higher capable of discover and honor its mysteries than Castellucci, who emerged from the world of experimental theater to provide an ongoing collection of summary and enigmatic opera productions.

His staging of “Don Giovanni,” then, is a extremely anticipated assembly of labor and director. Its premiere, on July 26, can be broadcast dwell on Austrian tv, and the Aug. 7 efficiency can be streamed on-line.

Also a lot anticipated is the primary from-scratch collaboration between Castellucci and the conductor Teodor Currentzis, who’ve individually supplied a few of the Salzburg Festival’s most acclaimed occasions lately. Their “Giovanni” can be uncommon — with collapsing church buildings, falling vehicles and pianos, a dwell rat and different excessive photographs. But Markus Hinterhäuser, Salzburg’s inventive director, mentioned that it isn’t merely inflammatory.

“There is nothing more boring than that,” Hinterhäuser mentioned. “This is provocation in an epiphenomenal way: creating spaces of perception, of resonance, of seeing. That is the provocation that is actually interesting.”

In foreground, Davide Luciano as Don Giovanni and Vito Priante as Leporello within the manufacturing, surrounded by dozens of girls representing Giovanni’s conquests.Credit…Ruth Walz/SF

The pageant, which final yr was one of many first European performing arts establishments to renew dwell performances, is now pioneering a return to prepandemic scale. (“Giovanni,” a part of a centennial season initially set for final summer season, is amongst a gaggle of postponed productions.) While many theaters are nonetheless blocking out seats, Salzburg is promoting — and, usually, promoting out — its theaters at full capability. Attendees can be required to be vaccinated, examined or just lately recovered from a coronavirus an infection; masks had been initially to not be required, however now are after an viewers member examined optimistic following an outside efficiency of the play “Jedermann.” And artists are being repeatedly examined.

Castellucci’s idea revolves across the want to re-enchant — to respect the thriller of — the parable of Don Juan (Don Giovanni within the opera’s Italian). “The stupidest and most superficial thing you could do would be to turn him into some kind of Latin lover,” he mentioned, proposing Giovanni as an alternative because the precept of life itself, a component of chaos or dysfunction that’s each feared and desired, violent and engaging.

“Even in the foundations of the myth,” Castellucci added, “he is someone who desires, who needs. And Mozart and Da Ponte” — Lorenzo Da Ponte, the work’s librettist — “only show us his failures.”

It is important that within the piece we by no means see this supposedly nice seducer succeed. For Castellucci, then, Giovanni is consultant of a childlike ego’s seek for love — “the melancholy of the satyr,” which this director understands as beating close to the center of Western tradition.

This is the primary from-scratch collaboration between Castellucci and the acclaimed conductor Teodor Currentzis.Credit…Ruth Walz/SF

Giovanni is looking out not for limitless girls however for one girl, an impossibly excellent synthesis of incompatible types of feminine perfection: mom, lover, prostitute. Desperately looking for wholeness and salvation, he finally ends up destroying others, treating girls solely as objects.

Far from the stereotypical Casanova determine deriving pleasure from his conquests, this Don Giovanni is each victimizer and sufferer, pushed towards violence by the power of his wishes and by his worry of the trustworthy encounter with the opposite that’s required in any loving relationship.

“I think he has some childhood trauma,” Davide Luciano, the Italian baritone who performs Giovanni, mentioned in an interview. “I always thought that this was the true character; it’s deeper and darker than just enjoying women. Casanova enjoys; Giovanni does not and cannot.”

In the well-known “catalog aria” within the first act, Giovanni’s servant Leporello tells the deserted (however nonetheless smitten) noblewoman Donna Elvira of his grasp’s many lovers — 1,003 in Spain alone. Often performed for comedy, this sequence is for Castellucci one thing way more critical.

“This is a horrifying interaction,” he mentioned, “in which humans are just numbers.” In response, Castellucci will fill the stage all through the opera with 150 girls who usually are not skilled actors or dancers. Trained in his exact gestural language by the choreographer Cindy van Acker, they’ll start to set off Giovanni’s downfall.

Nadezhda Pavlova sings Donna Anna, one of many girls who circle round Don Giovanni.Credit…Ruth Walz/SF

“The ‘mille tre’ will be invested with literal substance,” Castellucci mentioned, “to turn the philosophy of the catalog upside-down by occupying all the space that is available, with these women who have a body, an age, a biography, a name, a history — who are real persons.”

In the primary act, Giovanni will brutalize and dominate these girls. As the second act progresses, although, they’ll start to take management, finally main him to hell.

Mozart, born right here in 1756, is Salzburg’s favourite son, and in 1922, “Don Giovanni” was the pageant’s first opera manufacturing — performed by the nice composer Richard Strauss, with the Vienna Philharmonic, which remains to be the home orchestra, within the pit. This yr, for the primary time, the opera can be performed right here by an ensemble apart from the Philharmonic: Currentzis leads his devoted MusicAeterna, which has been heard at Salzburg in Mozart’s “La Clemenza di Tito” and “Idomeneo” and made its identify with a cycle of recordings of the three Mozart-Da Ponte operas.

“I have a very certain theory about the sound of ‘Don Giovanni,’” Currentzis mentioned in an interview after a rehearsal, “rooted in Salzburgian church music.”

“It’s a polystylistic opera,” he added, referring to the rating’s mixture of tropes from extreme opera seria and jovial opera buffa, added to orchestrations that recall non secular music. “I wouldn’t say it’s a prefiguration of Romanticism; it is already Romantic. Rather, he goes straight to contemporary music, straight to Alban Berg.”

For Currentzis, the work’s feminine characters replicate totally different kinds of feminine singer: Donna Anna, for instance, appears to have arrived from an opera seria and Zerlina, a peasant woman, from an opera buffa. In Don Giovanni’s sexual and emotional scheme, Elvira represents the mom; Anna, the lover; and Zerlina, the prostitute.

Currenztis, proper, conducts his ensemble MusicAeterna, whose gamers are tuned a quarter-tone decrease than commonplace pitch.Credit…Ruth Walz/SF

These musical and psychological relationships, Currentzis believes, can solely be introduced out by way of traditionally knowledgeable efficiency. He has the gamers tune their A to 430 Hz, a quarter-tone decrease than modern orchestras’s commonplace efficiency pitch.

“It’s obviously better,” Currentzis mentioned. “Mozart composed music at 430 Hz; that was the pitch of the time. When he made the plan of the tonality, he knew exactly what he wanted to give brightness and darkness.”

“If you transpose everything a quarter-tone up,” he added, “all the spectral stuff is completely different.”

The precision of his work with intonation extends to Currentzis’s expectations of singers and their tone. “It is very simple,” he mentioned. “You have a very tight polyphonic structure, and if everything is not precise, everything collapses. We have a Romantic type of singing that came in with the 20th century, and then singers brought this Romantic approach to the operas of Mozart, and to polyphonic music. When the voices have less vibrato, this helps me to make the architecture.”

In his recordings, the distinction in vocal manufacturing from the norm — much more dramatic than what one usually hears in traditionally knowledgeable performances — is instantly audible: tougher consonants; very comfortable and infrequently nearly whispered singing; quite a lot of straight, vibrato-less tone. Currentzis insists that even within the Grosses Festspielhaus, which seats greater than 2,100, all this can be audible.

“You don’t have to have the singer sing louder,” he mentioned. “The orchestra can also play softer.”

The singers appear overjoyed fairly than upset by the calls for. “It’s the greatest thing in the world,” mentioned the tenor Michael Spyres, who performs Don Ottavio. “It needs to be alive, and it needs to be flexible. Mozart is the farthest thing from stiffness.” The decrease pitch, he added, helps the singers to entry extra vocal colours; Luciano, the Giovanni, mentioned he may pronounce phrases higher at this tuning.

This “Giovanni” can be uncommon — with collapsing church buildings, falling vehicles and pianos, a dwell rat and different excessive photographs.Credit…Ruth Walz/SF

“Normally I work with great conductors,” Luciano mentioned, “but they don’t always know about singing technique. Teodor knows about singing.”

He added that he had been “a little bit afraid” to work with Currentzis and Castellucci, each of whom have well-earned reputations for rigor. But Luciano mentioned that the environment has been “very serene” and that Castellucci “never asks for strange or uncomfortable positions for singers. He is always at our service for the singing, for the music.”

At the tip of the interview, Castellucci mentioned the opera’s finale: a sextet of the plot’s survivors, celebrating the downfall of the central antihero. “We hear how they try to reconstitute society without Don Giovanni,” he mentioned. “But we feel in this joyous music a terrible nostalgia for this person, because of the principle of life that he represented. Heidegger said that the artist is a problematizer, someone who creates problems. That, I think, is a wonderful definition of the whole process.”

Currentzis felt equally, regardless of the presentation of the title character in all his tortured darkness. “The audience will criticize him during the intermission,” he mentioned. “But in the hall, they want to be him. Don Giovanni does what they want. He has the guts to actually do it.”