Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Opera Wednesday

Aweek ago Saturday the Met broadcast Mozart's Don Giovanni, a spectacular production with Mariusz Kwiecien in the title role.

Don Giovanni is a terrific opera to be sure, but it's not one of Mozart's best, and I think part of that is due to what, in my humble opinion, is a rare mistake in judgement by the great Wolfgang. It comes in the final scene, where the wicked Don is dragged off to hell by the ghost of the Commendatore, whom Giovanni murdered earlier in the opera.

This is a tremendous scene, building to a resounding climax, and it should be the end of the opera. But no - for some reason, Mozart sees fit to stick in a final ensemble in which various characters whom Giovanni has wronged come together to pronounce their final judgement on him. It's a totally unnecessary coda - the music builds to its natural climax in the death scene, the audience is ready to applaud, the lights dim, what more could anyone ask for? We get what the moral of the story is, we don't need to have it pounded into our heads.

In the past, many conductors would leave this last scene out altogether, understanding that the dramatic flow of the opera demands that it conclude with the Commendatore scene. Unfortunately, the opera is rarely performed that way today - directors who seemingly have no problem cutting, moving and bastardizing other productions apparently freeze up when it comes to one simple little cut in Don Giovanni. Oh well. (Although, thankfully, there are exceptions.)

Be that as it may, it's still a terrific opera. But if you want an idea of how it should end, here's a televised performance of that scene, with Tadeo Giorgio as the Don. Now tell me: after seeing this, need anything more be said?

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