in: News & Features

April 12, 2014

Stone Guest Delivers Comeuppance

by

Attractive Possuer

Attractive Poseur

Despite what Beethoven expressed about the vulgarity of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, he kept sketches of the music in his notebooks. And whether it is Mozart or the Don who seduces us, we are always taken to more dangerous places by good performances. We prefer to be left in such places, and like productions which omit the anticlimactic, didactic, moralizing final ensemble. To see the rake punished and be left with that image is unsurpassed as theater. It’s a good idea to get an aisle seat so you can dash for the exit as the flames of conflagration smolder.

The BU Opera Institute will give the dissolute rake another moment to prance upon the boards. Having seen many of BU’s opera productions over the years, and having found them of consistently rewarding quality, we are happy to point readers to their upcoming production.

The School of Music Opera Institute and the School of Theatre at Boston University College of Fine Arts present Don Giovanni, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s tale of seduction and abandonment — April 17-20, 2014. Their press release follows.

A classic story originally set in 18th Century Seville, Spain, BU School of Theater and School of Music Opera Institute bring an evolved Don Giovanni into a contemporary dynamic space to tell this story. “The set is modern, the clothes are modern, and the attitudes are more modern than the era in which Moliere wrote his play or Mozart and DaPonte wrote their opera,” says Daniel Pelzig, Stage Director.

In the classic opera, Don Giovanni, with more than two thousand seductions behind him and no end in sight, becomes increasingly reckless as he descends into excess and immortality. But when his antics turn fatal and unrepentant, the women he has discarded seek revenge and it is ultimately served up by a hellish supernatural force.

“While Don Juan may meet his end, the tale itself seems eternal,” added Deborah Burton, Assistant Professor of Music at Boston University College of Fine Arts. “Whether it is the latest film takeoff (like 2013’s Don Jon) or an updated operatic performance, the echoes of the old story still resonate.”

“Seeing that the Opera Institute is a company of young and energetic singers, I only thought it appropriate to approach the opera with a youthful vibrancy and Gen-X edginess,” added Pelzig

“As we celebrate this year’s Keyword Transformation, we rededicate ourselves as performances, teachers, creators, and citizens to share the transformative power of art,” says William Lumpkin, Artistic Director of the Boston University Opera Institute. “Although the artistic journey is never complete, we proudly recognized this opportunity to proclaim the substance of this next generation of artists who will continue to transform the world.”

Transformation is marked by metamorphosis, or a process of profound or radical change.

“It is through the process that we think, engage, and find solutions,” said Benjamín Juárez, Dean, College of Fine Arts, Boston University. “And it is through this process that our art takes shape, and we as artists grow.”

Don Giovanni
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, composer
Lorenzo Da Ponte, librettist

William Lumpkin, conductor
Daniel Pelzig, guest stage director

Thursday, April 17th, 7:30pm
Friday, April 18th, 7:30pm
Saturday, April 19th, 7:30pm
Sunday, April 20th, 2pm

Venue: Boston University Theatre (264 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA)

Box Office: 617.933.8600 or bostontheatrescene.com

(Tickets: $20 general public; $15 BU Alumni, WBUR and WGBH members, Huntington Theatre subscribers, and senior citizens; $10 CFA Membership; $5 students with valid ID. Two free tickets with BU ID at the door).

For further reading we recommend BU History professor James H. Johnson’s 2007 paper here.

10 Comments

  1. We (along with Mozart) enjoy the final ensemble and think it belongs there. A drama, and Don G. is certainly one such, doesn’t end well at fever pitch. A peroration allows the mind to begin the process of digestion and reflection. But thanks for alerting us; we’re going!

    Comment by Martin Cohn — April 12, 2014 at 12:56 pm

  2. Youthful vibrancy ! Gen-X edginess ! Keyword Transformation, and the Transformative Power of Art !

    There is too much transforming going on here. What makes Don Giovanni a hero despite his generally villainous character is his steadfast refusal to be transformed, his persistence in his appetites and error. Similarly to transform the opera by lopping off the finale (which is, I agree, a bit limp), as the review suggests, is to violate its nature by making it a Romantic, rather than a Classical, work.

    By the way, Beethoven not only kept sketches in his notebooks, but made a quotation from Leporello a “transformative moment” in one of his masterpieces – the 22nd of the Diabelli Variations.

    PS – hasn’t Gen-X graduated by now, and joined the faculty ? Or is it part of its X-iness that the term can forever be applied to new generations, X being the unknown and all ?

    Comment by SamW — April 12, 2014 at 1:47 pm

  3. An unattributed Wiki: The opera’s final ensemble was generally omitted until the mid-20th century, and does not appear in the Viennese libretto of 1788. Mozart also made a shortened version of the operatic score. Nonetheless, the final ensemble is almost invariably performed in full today.

    Comment by Lee Eiseman — April 12, 2014 at 2:16 pm

  4. One more caption try? It’s poseur, not possuer or posuer.

    Comment by William Bennett — April 15, 2014 at 7:07 am

  5. Maybe it’s persuer.

    Comment by Martin Cohn — April 15, 2014 at 4:20 pm

  6. “Persuer” is almost as bad as “Possuer.” I guess you mean “pursuer.”

    Lopping off the finale in ‘D.G.’ reminds me of how teenagers and sentimental romantics of any age are always a bit disappointed that Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ doesn’t end with the married couple’s deaths. The reasons for the supposedly anticlimactic final ensembles in the Mozart and the Shakespeare are certainly different (in ‘R. & J.’ how can you get the dead bodies off the stage if there are no live characters around to carry them off in a theater that has no proscenium curtain? they have to die in the ‘tomb,’ i.e., the so-called recessed ‘inner stage,’ which does have a little curtain, after which the feuding families can reconvene for the final resolution), but there is a similarity in the sense of restored peace and harmony in both ‘R & J’ and ‘Don Giovanni’ and one cam use a bit of the ‘giocoso’ at the end of Mozart’s ‘dramma giocoso.’ I wonder why the final ensemble was dropped in early days and for much of the following centuries. Or was it Mahler alone who deemed it expendable in the 19th Century? Does anyone know?

    Comment by Alan Levitan — April 15, 2014 at 6:53 pm

  7. Interesting first comment here (maybe everyone already knows this speculation?):

    http://boulezian.blogspot.com/2014/02/ending-don-giovanni.html

    Comment by David Moran — April 15, 2014 at 7:14 pm

  8. I was under the impression that if a cut was made in 19th century performances, it was usually that the final sextet was taken off the end, so that there was no “moral” at the end of the story, and the opera ended with Don Giovanni’s descent to Hell. I personally like a treatment like one I saw on a video some years ago where the final sextet is played before the curtain.

    If you really want to see (and FEEL) hellfire, the latest production at the MET is fairly traditional until the last scene where half the set flips down and towering flames all of a sudden shoot from the stage. I was in a top balcony box seat and got uncomfortably warm, and friends of mine who saw the show from the rear section of Family Circle could feel it too. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to be on the stage!

    Comment by Thomas Dawkins — April 15, 2014 at 8:41 pm

  9. Perhaps cliché to point out but it sounds like most commenters’ reactions to the final ensemble have more to do with the commenter’s expectations than anything else, and they should! The final ensemble does provide an emotional (and harmonic) balm after the Don gets roasted, but if a director wants to leave his/her audience unsettled, it can seem anti-climactic. It’s just impressive that directors and audiences have so many options.

    Personally I like leaving the house feeling unsettled, but maybe that’s my latent Gen X (or is it “Z” or “X prime”?) tendencies. DG goes to Hell, the curtain goes up and I can almost hear Mozart giggling, “things started out so funny, huh?”

    Comment by Andrew J. Sammut — April 16, 2014 at 9:49 am

  10. Mozart’s audience would not have been surprised to see the Don go to Hell; they would have looked forward to it, and probably found it comic. The story was ubiquitous on the European stage, in many forms, including one in which the Leporello part was taken by Arlecchino, plays by Moliere and Goldoni, a popular ballet with music by Gluck, and at least two prior operas. The Classical audience was not in the least shocked by seeing the Don go to Hell, which satisfied the natural order of things, but may have been a little put off by being left without commentary, without being assured that they were much better than he was and could go home and sleep safely in their beds.

    Nevertheless Revolution was in the air, and the Romantic Moment was approaching. According to Hermann Abert the reaction to the original finale set in almost immediately, causing Mozart to lop it off on the road from Prague to Vienna, as it were. It was performed without it (though often with other additions, such as the complete collapse of the Don’s castle) until the twentieth century, with a few exceptions.

    I think that the rather unconvincing character of the final sextet compared to what comes before it is evidence that Mozart and da Ponte (and their audience) were experiencing the kind of pre-Romantic ambivalence attributed by their contemporary William Blake to John Milton: “The reason Milton wrote in fetters when he wrote of Angels & God, and at liberty when of Devils & Hell, is because he was a true Poet and of the Devils party without knowing it.”

    Comment by SamW — April 18, 2014 at 9:04 am

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