Saturday, July 10, 2010

Don Giovanni

I'm excited to be going to the Opera New Jersey performance of Don Giovanni tomorrow afternoon with my daughter. Andrew Garland, pictured in the photo at left, will be playing the title role. I'll be the gray longhair with the pouting teenager on my arm. But, come to think of it, in a town like Princeton, that may not be enough information to single me out.

The opera is one of Mozart's finest, of the trio of collaborations with librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte that also includes "Le Nozze di Figaro" and "Cosi fan tutti". These are all mature Mozart, setting stories told cleverly and often brilliantly by Da Ponte. "Don Giovanni" is the Don Juan legend, the story of a libertine nobleman who seduces scores of women and finally meets his fate at the hands of a murdered father's graveyard statue.

Da Ponte's colorful life brought him to the U.S., where he made many important contributions to the fledgling national culture, primarily through his expertise in Italian literature. (He was apparently the first to teach the works of Dante in America, among other things.)

But he is still remembered first and foremost as Mozart's librettist. He liked the notoriety and played it up, even crediting himself with discovering Mozart and introducing the composer to the world's audiences.

"I can never remember without exultation and complacency," he once wrote, "that it was to my perseverance and firmness alone that Europe and the world in great part owe the exquisite vocal compositions of the admirable genius."

Well, they are three really terrific operas, that much is certainly true. Mozart had written well over a dozen others before his collaborations with Da Ponte and none of them really captured the public's imagination in the same way.

So I'm excited to be going to see what promises to be a good production. Showtime is 2 p.m. at Princeton's McCarter Theatre, main stage.


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