Kentucky Opera presents its final production of the 60th Anniversary Season with Mozart's Don Giovanni. Performances run tonight, February 15th at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday, February 17th at 2:00 p.m. in the Brown Theatre. For tickets, call (502) 584-7777 or go online at www.kyopera.org.
Thomson Smillie has graciously shared his insight and thinking about Don Giovanni.
For much of its history Don Giovanni has been considered by many to be the greatest opera ever written. The description is of course subjective because there can no more be a greatest opera than a greatest book or a greatest painting. But that has never stopped the wordsmiths and even a short exposure to the story of the last day in the life of the rake Don Juan (Italianised for the opera) shows why.
It is the work of probably the greatest combination of librettist (who wrote the words) and composer in history - Lorenzo da Ponte and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. If that sounds as wild a claim as the one about 'the world's greatest opera', consider that in a period of a few years they gave the world The Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni and Cosi fan tutte. Closest rivals are Arrigo Boito and Verdi (Otello and Falstaff) and the firm of Wagner and Wagner, (who wrote his own libretti.)
Like all great theatre works success starts with the plot. The story of Don Juan and his last adventures dates back maybe 200 years before Mozart to 16th century Spain. The dramatic device of having the Don kill a distinguished old soldier, encounter the dead man's statue and invite it to dinner is a fine one and gives rise to one of the great confrontations and most chilling denouements in opera.
Da Ponte had to pad out the legend somewhat and in doing so created a drama peopled with richly variegated characters: noble women like Donna Anna and Donna Elvira, grand characters like the too noble to be true Don Ottavio, a grumbling servant Leporello and some very truculent peasants.