Archives for posts with tag: Mozart

Having previously directed masterful productions of Vaughan Williams’s Riders to the Sea, Henze’s Elegy for Young Lovers, and Britten’s Rape of Lucretia, actress Fiona Shaw has proven beyond any doubt that her dramatic talents extend to a fine sensibility for opera. Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro represents a somewhat different challenge, however, in the convoluted mechanics of its wide swathe of interpersonal relationships as much as its assured place as a popular favourite in the canon. Ms. Shaw’s production for English National Opera—the home of the first two aforementioned productions—admittedly stumbles more than her other efforts, its forced concepts of animalistic masculinity and misogyny occasionally overbearing by contrast to the emotional purity of the music. Nevertheless, much of its action is guided by directorial intelligence and the sure dramatic flair of a habitué of the stage; bolstered by a solid cast, this first revival proved a highly enjoyable, if not exactly flawless, evening.

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An absolute masterpiece such as Don Giovanni has lent itself from the very moment of its creation to numerous and antithetical interpretations; the central question for performers and listeners is the spirit in which the work is to be approached. The opera concludes with divine retribution for sin, but it also involves the subtlest musical exploration of the comic and tragic motivation for compassion and moral indifference. Who is the most profoundly realized character: Leporello? Donna Elvira? The Commendatore? And what are we to make of Don Giovanni himself? Is he simply a faceless libertine whose real significance is in what others see in him, or is he is some way a tragic protagonist defending his genius against complacent practicality? Or is he an animal rendered obsolescent by civilization? A mediaeval Vice figure, Marlow’s Faust, Brecht’s Baal?

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