Category Archives: Don Giovanni

why is Don Giovanni so hard to do well?

According to a list I found called 100 Greatest Operas, Don Giovanni is listed as #3. According to OperaBase tables, it is also the 10th most frequently performed opera in the world.

While I am not doubting these rankings–the opera certainly pops up in my Fave Five–it is a great curiosity to me why so few companies, well-resourced ones at that–can manage a bang-up presentation of the famous dramma giocoso.

If one takes stock in Michael White’s 2014 review of  the Royal Opera House’s Don Giovanni at Covent Garden, he contends it is within the nature of the production itself that makes it hard to pull off.  It is many things such as comedy, tragedy, sexual assault, murder, masquerade, chase, supernatural interaction. As such, the opera constitutes an “invitation to excess”  for less-disciplined directors.

Confounding the greatest of expectations, the Met’s “new” production (2011) was considered lackluster and underdone by a number of critics, including Tommasini. A quick Google show points to numerous companies who didn’t hit the mark with arguably Mozart’s greatest opera.

Don Giovanni at New York City Opera, 2009 (Christopher Alden, director)

Don Giovanni at New York City Opera, 2009 (Christopher Alden, director)

In my recent review of Opera Phila’s Don Giovanni, I mentioned how much I liked Christopher Alden’s production at New York City Opera in 2009. The New York Times reviewer said Alden revitalized a masterpiece, and I concur.

What I wouldn’t give to see a Don Giovanni like that again! Although, in the interest of full disclosure, during intermission, people complained about the Alden version, that it was too regie. Honestly, I thought it was pure-dead brilliant.

Lacking a truly great performance to attend, in the interim, there are many fine recorded performances to listen to. And I’ll keep hoping to see another Don Giovanni for the ages before I shuffle off my mortal coil. Fingers crossed.

How about you, dear readers? Where have you seen a Don G. for the ages?


Filed under Classic Opera, Don Giovanni

getting in the mood for Don G.

Very excited to see Opera Philadelphia’s Don G. this afternoon at the Academy of Music.

To get in the mood, I watched Opera Phila’s trailer:

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Then I decided to resurrect some of my favorite Don G. entries from the now defunct Twitter contest called #operaplot.

*Sigh. I really miss that contest.*

But thanks to Opera Phila, I won’t miss my favorite Mozart opera.

Without further adieu, here were some of my favorite Don G. sendups in 140 characters or less flying across my Twitter feed back in the Golden Days of #operaplot:

Don Giovanni (Mozart)
Vankan0 – it 640 de 231 fr 100 tr 91 es 1003. Kill father. Dress up as servant. Seduce farmer girl. Supper with ghost. Go to hell.
Gerrit Theule – A rake’s progression goes from woman to woman to woman to hell. His poor servant, left to explain things, escapes at least.
Gerrit Theule – Three strikes and the Don’s out. The Commendatore wins every time. Except at the beginning. He doesn’t fare so well there
Patrick Swanson – I tell ya, Leporello-life is good. Bangin hot chicks, breakin hearts. Pass the butter. *knock knock* Who’s there? Oh shit.
Paul JZ – The Don’s Hectic Calendar: Seduce. Rape. Duel. Kill. Flirt. Lure. Flee. Regroup. Accuse. Swap. Fool. Invite. Revel. Refuse. BURN!
Paul JZ – “Questo è il fin di chi fa mal!” So, don’t seduce, rape, accuse, fool, desert, lure, beat, or kill, lest you be dragged to hell!
Thos Carpenter – A cautionary tale for serial rapists everywhere: never invite a walking, talking statue from hell to a dinner party.
MMmusing – Cad kills Commendatore. Conquests cataloged, courts country cutie. Cry creates chaos. Cast Commendatore comeback cues comeuppance.
MPR Mike – 1003 in Seville is plenty.
Paul JZ – I’m too sexy for amor—too sexy for Seville. I’m a charmer—I shake my lil tush on the piazza. I’m too sexy for this opera. *burns*
Fabtab – Man leaves Playboy mansion to compete for a virgin; sings a rap so filthy even the Pope digs it.
Oliver JMC – By some miracle, he didn’t experience any burning sensations until after the 1003rd.
Eric Mahlzeit – Cunning Spanish nobleman murders, seduces, serenades, and throws one hell of a dinner party.
Where’s Runnicles – How many? I don’t believe you. Seriously, I made a list. Where do you think you’re dragging me off to and why is it so hot there?
CTMCC – Go to hell Don G says mad woman, sad woman, nearly-bad woman, their menfolk and many many others.
MPR Mike – In which our hero learns that, in Spain, he should have stopped at 1003.
Pattyoboe – He’s made a long list, checked it more than twice. Everyone knows he’s naughty, not nice. Dinner time for Statue & Don.
Otterhouse – Leporello: “Drink wet cement and really get stoned.”
Shevinka – Hi lep, remember that old dude we killed? Well he got me b4 the stds did! give your wife *one* for me :p, see you in hell xx
Lattavanti – No reference from former boss because he went to Hell for killing some chick’s dad. Here’s a list of other gfs—see, he trusted me
Henri Drost – I can’t get no satisfaction tho I’ve tried 2066 times. No no no says Leporello but I’d be damned to decline an invitation.
Le Boyfriend – Kissed the girls and made them cry. Stabbed one’s dad and watched him die. Offered chances to repent, he opted to be Hades sent. Men!

All wonderful entries, no? Which was your favorite?


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Filed under Audience participation, Baritones, Classic Opera, Don Giovanni, Opera and humor

for opera lovers who also enjoy reading …The Fussy Librarian is here!

Fussy Librarian is a new free ebook matching service that comes right to your email inbox.

The Fussy Librarian is a new free ebook matching service that comes right to your email inbox.

If you’re like me, you LOVE when new sites and services emerge that make the most of the technology available to make our lives easier and more pleasurable!

That’s why I like THE FUSSY LIBRARIAN. it’s a new free email subscription service that sends you with ebook recommendations matching your precise (and I do mean precise) interests and content preferences.

This is one smart librarian, cats and kittens.

She remembers not only what genres you prefer but also your preferences about salty language, graphic violence, and explicit sexual content. If you like squeaky clean mysteries, she only sends you an email listing mysteries without sex, violence or profanity.

On the other hand, if you like everything, she sends you lots of suggestions each day.

I am a subscriber, so I’ll tell you how it works.

After entering your email address, you get a series of checkboxes to fill out. I checked All Fiction and All Audiobooks. Under fiction, there are 29 categories to choose from! I mean, you can really drill down on exactly what you like to read with this service.

Of course they offer nonfiction books, too–eleven categories.

Then you can set your preferences for language, sex, and violence. The whole thing takes but a minute or two.

Be as fussy as you like, friends. Believe me, The Fussy Librarian can handle it.

This is the perfect service for our day and age, when people enjoy being catered to and customers like me appreciate feeling valued as individual and (a bit) idiosyncratic readers.

My debut novel DON JUAN IN HANKEY, PA loosely inspired by Mozart’s Don Giovanni is being featured today, Sunday, November 17, at The Fussy Librarian. So, why not subscribe to this service today? To arrive in your preferred email inbox would put a huge smile on my Don’s handsome face!

Yours in fussy listening and reading,

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Filed under Don Giovanni, DON JUAN IN HANKEY, Mozart, music and humor, opera and fiction, Opera and humor, opera and romance

Sunday Best — Oscar loves opera!

*This post was great fun to share on the day of the Academy Awards, and is applicable today. Hence, an Operatoonity Encore Post.

Psssst. Wanna know a secret? Oscar’s in love with opera. Operatic music is widely and well used in many excellent films: The Godfather, Life of David Gale, Fantasia, Black Hawk Down, and the list goes on and on.

Here are some of the Oscar-winning movies I’ve seen (and some of my favorite also-rans) with the classical music they incorporated into their soundtracks. Maybe that’s why Oscar adores opera.

1997: Life Is Beautiful – Best Actor (Robert Benigni) – “Barcarolle” from Les Contes d’HoffmannOffenbach (This is one of my all-time favorite movies, so it gets the first YouTube clip.

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1993: PhiladelphiaBest Actor in a Leading Role (Tom Hanks), and Best Music, Song (Bruce Springsteen for “Streets of Philadelphia“) – “La Mamma Morta” from Andrea Chénier – Giordano

1987: Moonstruck – Best Original Screenplay, Best Actress (Cher), and Best Supporting Actress – La Bohème – Puccini

1987: The Untouchables – Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Sean Connery, always have to give a nod to Sean Connery, wherever and however possible) – “Vesti la giubba” from Paliacci – Leoncavallo; also featured in a Seinfeld episode.

1987:  Wall Street – Best Actor (Michael Douglas) – “Questa O Quella” from Rigoletto – Verdi

1984 Amadeus – Eight Oscars, most notably Best Picture,  Best Actor in a Leading Role (F. Murray Abraham), Best Director (Miloš Forman), and Best Adapted Screenplay (Peter Shaffer) –  Don Giovanni  and “Sull’ Aria” from The Marriage of Figaro – by whom else by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

1980 Raging Bull – Best Actor (De Niro) and Best Editing (Schoonmaker) – “Cavalleria rusticana” – Mascagni

1979 Apocalypse Now – Best Cinematography and Best Sound – “Ride of the Valkyries” from Die Walkure – Wagner

Three of my favorite also nominated-but-didn’t-win movies with opera. (Hey! It’s my blog!)

1994: The Shawshank Redemption – “Sull’ Aria” from The Marriage of Figaro – Mozart. Here is the scene where Andy plays the aria for inmates (It is one of my favorite scenes ever–thank you, Mozart):

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1987: Fatal Attraction – “Un Bel di Vedremo” from Madama Butterfly  – Puccini

1990: Pretty Woman – Best Actress (Julia Roberts) La Traviata – Verdi

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Filed under Classic Opera, Classical Composers, Don Giovanni, Mozart, Sunday Best

‘1003 in Spain alone. Boy, and I thought I had a misspent youth!’

Don G. poster designed by Jose Llopis

(As part of the run-up to Mozart’s birthday tomorrow, I am delighted to share with you some reflections on Don Giovanni in today’s guest post from the esteemed Stephen Llewellyn, aka Operaman entitled “1003 in Spain alone. Boy, and I thought I had a misspent youth.”)

by Stephen Llewellyn

Don Giovanni is one of a small handful of operas that on any given day I am prepared to pronounce my favourite opera. Note that I am not suggesting that it is the greatest opera ever written. Not even that it is Mozart’s greatest opera (most people would, I think, accord that honour to Le Nozze di Figaro.) But it is a work I never cease to love and marvel at.

Why? Well, prima la musica (‘first the music and then the words’), of course. Whether it be the humour of ‘Madamina, il catalògo e questo’ (the pre-cursor to Arthur Sullivan’s patter songs perhaps), the sheer beauty of ‘Deh vieni alla finestra’ or that “exquisite waste of time” ‘Il mio tesoro,’ Mozart’s pen spewed tunes that still leave us trembling, smiling, and whistling.

(Here’s a charming clip of Simon Keenlyside singing ‘Deh vieni alla finestra.’)

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But that glorious music alone wouldn’t do it without Lorenzo da Ponte’s libretto masterpiece which, when taken with the music, lays before us what seems like the whole of the human condition.  I can think of no writer, except Shakespeare, who manages to present the landscape of humankind before us, warts and all, without bitterness or judgement.

I suppose if you are an opera composer looking for a worldly-wise wordsmith who can get to grips with love, lust, chicanery, comedy, tragedy, life and death, you would be hard put to do better than Da Ponte. Born a Jew, converted to Roman Catholicism, took holy orders, seduced another man’s wife (with whom he had children), managed a whore house with her, ultimately fleeing to America where he became a grocer in Brooklyn before taking a post as the first professor of Italian literature at Columbia University. Yes, there was a man who knew life!

Don Giovanni's demise | c. New York City Opera

I could rattle on for pages on how each scene of the opera holds its own unique treasures but as space does not permit, let me jump to the ending.  What an ending! The Don is given the opportunity to admit the error or his ways and receive God’s – and our – absolution.  He’ll have none of it, preferring to remain true to himself and be damned.

Excuse me but I need to get online and see whether any company within a hundred miles of where I am sitting has plans to give us Don Giovanni any time soon. I am so there.

* * *

About the Author: Stephen Llewellyn is a former barrister, an Internet luminary, an #Operaplot champion, an opera devotee, bon vivant, and a blogger of record for the Portland Opera Company. You can read more about him in this scintillating Operatoonity Q&A.


Editor’s Note: If you, like Operaman, have Don G. fever, you can visit at this link for the production playing (or soon to run) nearest you. Since Stephen is across the pond, he can also consult One Stop Arts to see what operas are playing in London these days. You’re in luck, Stephen. Don G. is at the ROH until Feb. 29.

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Filed under Classic Opera, Don Giovanni, Guest post, Mozart