A co-production of the Greek National Opera with the Göteborg Opera (Sweden) and the Royal Danish Opera
Mozart’s Don Giovanni is the first of Greek National Opera’s international co-productions scheduled to be created and premiere in Athens, and then travel to the other two opera houses participating in the co-production. Due to the pandemic the production was not presented to a live audience, but it was video recorded in the Stavros Niarchos Hall and its world premiere is presented on GNO TV. Don Giovanni’s production and GNO TV were made possible by a grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) [www.SNF.org] to enhance the Greek National Opera’s artistic outreach.
One of the greatest milestones of the operatic repertoire, Don Giovanni is a challenge not only for opera singers but also for the creative team called upon to stage it. Mozart’s exceptionally imaginative music conveys all the aspects of the course of a man who fights with God and takes his fate in his own hands, while managing to connect the world of the nobles with the comic characters, in an unprecedented way. In this emblematic work nothing is as it seems, since ambiguity runs through both the libretto and the music. The story is about the amorous adventures of the philanderer Spanish nobleman, Don Giovanni. In one of them, he attempts to rape Donna Anna. In his effort to escape, he kills her father, who then returns from the world of the dead to take revenge. As Don Giovanni does not repent for his actions, he is led to Hell.
The sets and costumes of the new production of Don Giovanni were created entirely in GNO’s construction workshops, rehearsals took place in October and November 2020 in GNO’s rehearsal halls, and the performance was video recorded in mid-December in the Stavros Niarchos Hall. The production was video recorded by a state-of-the-art eight-camera system and directed using special filmmaking techniques, in order to offer a high-quality viewing and listening experience to the audience. The performance is presented on GNO TV and subtitles are available in Greek, English and French.
The production is conducted by Australian conductor Daniel Smith and directed by John Fulljames, with the participation of the Orchestra and Chorus of the Greek National Opera and starring distinguished Greek soloists Tassis Christoyannis, Vassiliki Karayanni, Yannis Christopoulos, Petros Magoulas, Anna Stylianaki, Tassos Apostolou, Nikos Kotenidis and Chrissa Maliamani.
John Fulljames is the artistic director of the Royal Danish Opera, former deputy artistic director of the Royal Opera House, London, and founder and artistic director of the avant-garde British artistic company The Opera Group. He has directed performances at the world’s greatest opera houses, such as La Scala, Milan, Covent Garden, Teatro Real in Madrid, Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona, Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, etc. The director, who sets the opera’s action in a modern-day hotel, in the microcosm of a city where the private becomes public and the stay lasts only a limited time, notes: “Don Giovanni is an enduring opera because it has so many aspects; there is broad humour and great theatrical set pieces, all in a dark thriller about a seducer who must be stopped. It is about how we live together in society and, as ever with opera, about how we face death. The climax is the long-awaited death of Don Giovanni himself as he chooses death, hell even, over denying who he is. His death is an expression of order reasserting itself over the unrestrained liberty he represents”.
The people who worked alongside Fulljames for Don Giovanni’s spectacular staging are associate director Aylin Bozok, set designer Dick Bird who designed the impressive sets representing all the aspects of a city hotel, costume designer Annemarie Woods, choreographer Maxine Braham, lighting designer Fabiana Piccioli, video designer Will Duke and video programmer Dan Trenchard.
Filmed at the Stavros Niarchos Hall, on December 10th, 12th & 15th, 2020.
At a glance – Synopsis
Don Giovanni at a glance
The composer There is little doubt anymore that Mozart was an intellectual, one of the most significant, restless and interesting personalities of his time, a charismatic, sensitive man with high ideals. Contemporary musicological research is constantly adding small pieces to the puzzle that forms the portrait of the composer, discovering new and exciting facets of his life.
The opera Don Giovanni is written in two acts. The libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte was based on an earlier version by Giovanni Bertati for Giuseppe Gazzaniga’s opera Don Giovanni o sia Il convitato di pietra, which was first performed in Venice in 1787.
Comedy or drama? Da Ponte labeled his libretto a dramma giocoso, a term which was interpreted as referring to a dramatic piece with comical elements. Mozart himself entered the work in his thematic catalogue as an opera buffa, a comical work. Apart from substantial elements of structure and musical characterization which clearly classify the piece as a comic opera, nowadays musicologists agree that in its time the term dramma giocoso meant nothing more than musical comedy, nothing different than opera buffa. In Mozart’s times terms were not used with the fastidiousness we usually insist upon nowadays.
Premieres Don Giovanni was first performed on 29 October 1787 at the Estates Theatre in Prague –today renamed as Tyl Theatre–, which was annexed by the National Theatre in 1948. For the Viennese premiere (7 May 1788), Mozart adapted the score for the new singers, composed new pieces for certain roles and removed others. Don Giovanni was introduced to the repertoire of the Greek National Opera (est. 1939/40) on 30 March 1962. The work was conducted by Antiochos Evangelatos and with Kostas Paskalis in the title role. The new co-production of the GNO is presented in Prague version.
Synopsis of the original
Act I Night. Outside the Commendatore’s home Leporello is waiting as Don Giovanni, his master, is inside attempting to ravish the Commendatore’s daughter, Donna Anna. A masked Don Giovanni runs from the house with Donna Anna in hot pursuit, shouting to her father for help. Awakened by her pleas, the Commendatore challenges Don Giovanni to a duel, in which the elder man is killed. After Don Giovanni and Leporello flee, Donna Anna and her fiancé, Don Ottavio, swear to avenge the death of the Commendatore. Don Giovanni and Leporello hear the cries of a woman. Don Giovanni, never one to pass up an opportunity, approaches, but recognizes her as Donna Elvira, whom he had recently seduced and abandoned. Leporello, who was assigned by Don Giovanni to distract her while he beats a hasty retreat, tells Elvira that she means nothing to his amorous master. The village is celebrating the impending wedding of Zerlina and Masetto. Lusting after Zerlina, Giovanni orders Leporello to amuse Masetto and the revellers so that he may be alone with Zerlina. Donna Elvira interrupts him just as he is about to woo Zerlina. Donna Anna and Don Ottavio arrive and ask Don Giovanni to help them find the Commendatore’s masked murderer. Their suspicion is aroused when they hear Donna Elvira’s denunciations of Don Giovanni, but he assures them that the scorned woman is mad. Don Giovanni leaves, but Donna Anna tells Don Ottavio she recognized his voice as that of her father’s murderer. Donna Anna, Don Ottavio and Donna Elvira wear masks and secretly join a party organized by Don Giovanni in celebration of Zerlina and Masetto. At the feast, Zerlina’s screams interrupt the dancing revellers, and Don Giovanni falsely accuses Masetto of attacking her. Donna Anna, Don Ottavio and Donna Elvira remove their masks and confront Don Giovanni, who manages to escape.
Act II Leporello threatens to leave his master’s service, but Don Giovanni convinces him to stay and help him seduce Donna Elvira’s maid. They exchange clothes and Don Giovanni serenades the maid while Leporello diverts Donna Elvira. Still disguised as Don Giovanni, Leporello is trying to escape from Donna Elvira when he is trapped by Don Ottavio, Donna Anna, Zerlina, and Masetto, who believe they have finally caught Don Giovanni. The servant pleads for mercy and escapes, and Don Ottavio reaffirms his oath for revenge to Donna Anna. Donna Elvira laments her betrayal of Don Giovanni. Don Giovanni and Leporello meet up in a cemetery, where they suddenly see the statue of the slain Commendatore. To Leporello’s horror, the statue accepts an invitation to dinner at Don Giovanni’s house. Despite Ottavio’s promises, Donna Anna is reluctant to marry while she is still in mourning. Donna Elvira bursts in on Don Giovanni’s feast, urging him to mend his ways, but to no avail. The statue of the Commendatore arrives for dinner and demands that Don Giovanni atone for his sins. He refuses and meets his doom. Donna Anna, Don Ottavio, Donna Elvira, Masetto and Zerlina arrive in search of Giovanni, but find only Leporello. The stunned servant tells them of the evening’s occurrences, and they agree that evildoers such as Don Giovanni always meet a bitter end. All think about how they will continue their lives: Zerlina and Masetto will enjoy a quiet married life, Donna Anna will postpone her marriage to Don Ottavio due to mourning, Donna Elvira will retire to a convent and Leporello will look for a better boss.
Creative team – Cast
Conductor Daniel Smith
Director John Fulljames
Associate director Aylin Bozok
Sets Dick Bird
Costumes Annemarie Woods
Choreographer Maxine Braham
Lighting designer Fabiana Piccioli
Video design Will Duke
Video programming Dan Trenchard
Chorus master Agathangelos Georgakatos
Don Giovanni Tassis Christoyannis
Donna Anna Vassiliki Karayanni
Don Ottavio Yannis Christopoulos
Il Commendatore Petros Magoulas
Donna Elvira Anna Stylianaki
Leporello Tassos Apostolou
Masetto Nikos Kotenidis
Zerlina Chrissa Maliamani
With the Orchestra and Chorus of the GNO
* The production contains nudity.
Death runs like an atmosphere through Don Giovanni – most obviously the Commendatore dies, but Donna Anna contemplates taking her own life, Ottavio says he is willing to sacrifice his life to revenge her, Leporello is almost killed, Masetto is almost killed, we are fearful for Zerlina… But of course the death which is the long-awaited and trailed climax of the opera is that of Don Giovanni himself –it becomes inevitable and even wished for by him as he chooses death, hell even, over denying who he is– as the individualistic threat of total, unrestrained, liberty which he represents can only be vanquished by his death. His death is an expression of order reasserting itself. All trace of him is wiped away and society continues. A miniature version of this re-statement of order occurs every time that we leave a hotel; as our rooms are fumigated and made new again to create once again the illusion that a new occupant will, tonight, be the first occupant. Hotels are stages on which we enact lives in defiance of mortality. Our mess is cleared away, no actions have consequences and there are clean sheets every day. Hotels are resonant in other ways; they are places where different people and classes encounter each other – whether for a civic event, a wedding where the family are spending their life savings, a long-term wealthy resident, a traveler visiting a city. Places where there is both intimacy and anonymity, both private and public spaces. Places where much of the function is oriented around what happens after dark. But above all they are places which one day we must check-out of. So please make yourself at home, check in, collect your room key, lock up your valuables and leave behind the world outside.
Photos & videos
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