Mozart, Don Giovanni

Back from Mozart‘s Don Giovanni at the Tbilisi State Opera: not a bad performance on the whole.  The cast was obviously having fun, which helps.  The hall was packed and generally well-behaved.

Except for Don Ottavio, who rasped throughout, the performers (including the orchestra) got better as the night wore on.

Staging was simple but tasteful.  The only problem came at the end.  When I read the synopsis in the program, I thought it must have been a poor translation.  But it turned out the synopsis matched the staging: the Commendatore’s statue did not come to dinner but was instead a haunting figment of Don Giovanni’s imagination (the voice coming from off-stage).  This did not work because from the text it is clear that Donna Elvira and Leporello see the statue arrive too, so without a statue this makes no sense.  On the other hand, the singer who portrayed the Commendatore in the beginning of the opera (and sang the statue’s part from off stage) was the only person in the cast who could not act to save his life.  So I was glad not to see him return.

The other conceptual problem arose from a sudden ending.  The final scene of the opera is anti-climactic and plain silly.  It has always seemed to me (and to many commentators) that the opera would have a more dramatic ending if it simply stopped when Don Giovanni gets sucked into hell, omitting the final scene.  I’ve never understood why Mozart and DaPonte included the last scene.  But as much as people talk about omitting the final scene, no one actually performs it without that scene, since it is there.  Except tonight the opera ended without the scene.  But since the curtain did not drop when the opera did end (at Giovanni being sucked into hell), and the conductor remained at the podium, and the house lights did not budge, it was not clear that the opera had ended until the conductor wandered off, the orchestra started cleaning its instruments, and cast members started appearing on stage for their bows.  If they were going to end the opera there (because they obviously agree that this is the dramatically-sensible place to end), then they needed to end instead of leaving everyone hanging, which ruined the drama they were seeking to restore by ending where they did.

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