October 23rd, 2005

Don Giovanni

Classical opera speaks a strange language.

If the soprano is doing lots of trill-embellished vocal gymnastics it doesn't mean she's a shallow drama-queen but that she's in the grip of some deep and disturbing emotion and I should be paying her close attention and not waiting for her to shut up so something more interesting can happen.

And if the baritone sings something simple and pretty, it doesn't mean that he's Mother Nature's Son; it means he's a heartless cheat.

Complexity = sincerity: simplicity = duplicity. It's a formulation that goes clean against my mid-20th century instincts.

We watched the Joe Losey film of Don Giovanni yesterday. This is Mozart made easy. If the piggy little romantic hero spends too long over his aria I can tune him out and enjoy the Palladian architecture instead.

This is Don Octavio I'm talking about. I don't know who the singer was, but he looked like Ernie Wise.

Otherwise the casting is splendid. Raimondo Ruggieri has eyes that shine in the dark. Kiri ti Kanawa is wonderfully demented as the madwoman in the attic.

My favourite character is the hermaphroditic page who acts as Don Giovanni's shadow. Yes, I know, s/he's not in the script. Dare I say that what I liked best about her/him is that s/he keeps her mouth shut?

Gorgeous music. Gorgeous and mostly over my head.

Like being confronted with a wall-full of hieroglyphics.