WNO: Don Giovanni. A new production 2011. What would Wagner say?

Written By The Wagnerian on Friday, 24 June 2011 | 8:21:00 pm

“Is it possible to find anything more perfect than every piece in ‘Don Giovanni’? Richard Wagner: Oper und Drama

"Oh, how doubly dear and above all honour is Mozart to me that it was not possible for him to invent music for ‘Tito’ like that of ‘Don Giovanni,’ for ‘Cosi fan tutte’ like that of ‘Figaro’! How shamefully would it have desecrated music!" Richard Wagner: Oper und Drama

I love Don Giovanni - it is without doubt my favourite Mozart opera (although the Flute runs a close second). It has everything: some of the finest music for opera ever written, a wonderful overture and a great piece of drama and theatre to boot; together  with Mozart and Da Ponte's wonderful psychological analysis. How could anyone not love it? Well, according to his autobiography Wagner in his youth - much preferring The Magic Flute and seeming to dislike the Don for its Italian text - amongst other things. However, as you can see, he changed his mind greatly in later years, going on to not only conduct it on many occasions but to take much time over it's production - especially  while in Zurich. According to Newman (Wagner's greatest biographer):
"Meanwhile Wagner had been doing his best to raise the standard of opera in Zurich. As we have seen, he opened the season on the 4th October, 1850, with Der Freischutz. He further conducted La Dame Blanche of Boieldieu on the llth and 18th, Norma on the 21st, Freischutz again on the 27th, Don Giovanni on the 8th and 18th November (again on the 26th March, 1851), the Magic Flute on the 29th November, La Dame Blanche again on the 6th December, 1850, and the 7th February, 1851, and Fidelio on the 4th April, 1851

He took particular trouble over Don Giovanni, a work that had been greatly disadvantaged, since Mozart's time, by the difficulties of all kinds that are inseparable from a modern performance of it.

Wagner spent three days and nights with Billow and Hitter correcting the orchestral parts and writing substitute parts for instruments, such as the trombones, that were missing from the local orchestra ; he made a working German dialogue version of some of the Italian recitatives, retaining others in their original form ; he simplified the scenic arrangements so as to avoid too many changes of the set tings; he transposed Donna Anna's aria to the graveyard scene, writing, by way of introduction to it, a short musical recitative for Ottavio and Donna Anna.
"I was furious ", Biilow wrote to his father, " when I remembered how it used to be said in Dresden that Wagner conducted Mozart's operas badly on purpose, because in his vain self-esteem he could not tolerate this music! He shows towards Mozart a warm, living, unselfish, but rational piety to which none of Mozart's pseudo-worshippers will ever attain." The theatre, according to Biilow, was sold out, but the Zurich public was somewhat irresponsive and ungrateful. Though Wagner, to get Kramer out of a difficulty, consented to conduct Don Giovanni again on the 26th March, 1851, and to close the company's season with Fidelio on the 4th April, 17 his more or less official connection with Kramer seems to have terminated when Biilow resigned, Wagner feeling that he had no longer any moral responsibility towards the management.
The Zurich score with Wagner's revisions in it has unfortunately disappeared".

THE LIFE OF RICHARD WAGNER VOLUME TWO 1848 1860 - Newman

And so, now that I feel I have well justified my inclusion of WNO new production of the Don here, onto the details.

Award winning West End team bring opera’s greatest villain to life


Three members of the multi award-winning creative team behind the smash hit West End musical Les Misérables are working on WNO’s new production of Don Giovanni this autumn.

Co-director and adapter of the musical John Caird, designer John Napier and lighting designer David Hersey have been re-united on WNO’s latest production which will open at Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff on 16th September before touring to Liverpool, Swansea, Llandudno, Bristol, Birmingham, Oxford and Southampton.

John Caird is directing his third opera for WNO, Don Carlos and Aida have both been critically acclaimed. He says Don Giovanni is a powerful piece: “Mozart’s dark masterpiece is a complex study in sexual obsession and the exercise of power, the greatest and darkest of the three Mozart/da Ponte collaborations.

“My designer John Napier and I have worked on creating a sculptured world of dark intensity as a backdrop for these profound human dramas. Just as the obsessive collector of art may be completely unaware of the pain and hardship endured by the artist, so the obsessive collector of women is unaware of the desperation and loneliness he leaves in his wake.
The most compelling irony of this story is that while the statue of the slaughtered Commendatore comes to life, his human heart is still beating after death. The living Giovanni, tragically unmoved by the plight of others, slowly turns his own heart into stone.”

Realising this world is former sculptor-turned-designer John Napier. John, who designed Cats, Starlight Express, Les Misérables, Miss Saigon and Sunset Boulevard for the West End, makes his WNO debut with Don Giovanni. His opera work includes Lohengrin and Macbeth for the Royal Opera House, Idomeneo for Glyndebourne and Nabucco for the Metropolitan Opera.

Further Details (including booking and touring information) please go here: WNO: Don Giovanni

The Creative Team

(Conductor ex. 29 Nov & 2 Dec)

(Don Ottavio)

(Donna Elvira)

(Masetto)

(Zerlina)

(Donna Anna)

(Don Giovanni)

(Leporello)

(Director)

(Designer)

(Assistant Designer)