Don Giovanni at Théâtre des Champs Elysées, 5/Dec/2016

Reporting from the white-shirt flat on 6th floor in the 11th arrondissement in Paris, with Dehggi writing from the other bed. After an excursion to chinatown to my favorite Vietnamese food joint*** and getting stuck in the touristic pre-Noël’s madness near the Ferris wheel, we barely made it to Théâtre des Champs Elysées 4 minutes before lights out. Upon running upstairs huffing and puffing, the usher, to our delight and MUCH more relaxed than the stiff-neck counterpart at the Wiener Staatsoper, were all smiling and telling us we still had time.

I actually don’t know Don Giovanni well at all! and have only recently (as in starting this past May) listening to it, after discovering Myrtò Papatanasiu and sorting out the difference between Donna Elvira and Donna Anna.. Since then I have listened to primarily two live performances to get things started: one for the very intriguing staging from Amsterdam with Papatanasiu as Donna Anna and one with the exceptional singing from the entire cast and of Antonacci as Donna Elvira in the Wien 1999 production. So this “review” will be heavily based on these two roles, and a little bit on Zerlina, whose music I discovered via Kasarova’s existing radio broadcasts. Our seats were up on the 3rd balcony directly above the orchestra for optimal view into the pit and sound from the singers (?). The first impression was the massive sound coming up during the overture and well into the first part of the singing. For me the whole show didn’t settle musically until the scene of in the morgue with Donna Anna in (goooooorgeous) suit recognizing DonG as her father killer and recounting the faithful night

“Non dubitate più: gli ultimi accenti che l’empio proferì tutta la voce richiamar nel cor mio di quell’indegno che nel mio appartamento…”

If I wasn’t a fan of Papatanasiu’s singing before, I would have become one last night. I’m extremely prone to detailed recitative phrasing (and low notes), and to my ears she was *the* star last night in phrasing, starting from every recit. She was already phrasing when on the floor clutching to DonnaA’s father’s dead body, but at that time the orchestra was way too loud and not leaving her space to express. During this passage, however, it was exquisite to hear: Each single sentence was expressed with full dynamics. I really think she was the only one using a full range of soft to loud and shaping/sculpting each sentence to draw us in, regardless of whether we understand Italian (or french surtitle) or not. The voice, again hearing live, this time from way above, I have to say it clicks with my ears very well: quite voluminous and distinctive from everyone else on stage such that it provides very nice contrast in trio/duet or solo (to not so loud orchestration). I would not categorize her voice as “beautiful”, and that’s not what I look for. Rather it’s the texture that works with vocal expression. Her voice, however, seems to not click well for Dehggi’s ears, but that is all good, each of us hear different things :-). Her “Non mi dir” was a show-stopper for me. Not in a “fancy” over decorated way, but in a time-stopping hold-your-breath while transitioning along in time with Donna Anna’s thought and pain. As I said, if I was not a fan before, definitely would become one last night. Also, whoever put her in a suit, that is simply BRILIANT! We’ll discuss how it fits in the staging in a bit.. but JA! (Also, since sitting there, with the orchestra fully visible, i did wish for a time-reversal machine back to February with Emmanuelle Haïm in the pit and Sifare and Aspasia on stage..)

Just an example then, on exactly what I hear when it comes to phrasing of recitative. This is purely a 2 minute passage, but through it, you feel every little note, pain, anguish, defiance in Donna Elvira. I think when recitative are not done in this way, it is “rushed” through and you will simply hear it being “said”, prior to the singer launching or easing into the main aria. By then, one would need to try to sort through what the aria is about, in addition to the musical lines. That is also a summary of what I heard from Donna Elvira last night, that it was singing, though Dehggi said she was very good. The other bit of music i GREATLY enjoyed was the orchestration to “Batti, batti, o bel Masetto”. Absolutely gorgeous flute and cello lines! And the finale trio “Don Giovanni! a cenar teco m’invitasti, e son venuto…” with moments when ALL woodwinds and brass (and all strings) were playing, quite goose-bump inducing.

On the subject of the orchestra, it started very loud to our ears. I was quite worried because throughout the first part, Donna Anna’s voice was quite masked out, DonG and Leporello were singing very loud, and Donna Elvira, with a quite large voice, was the only one making it above the orchestra to our ears unscathed. It was a huge relief for me when suddenly the orchestra quiet down as Leporello started “Madamina, il catalogo è questo”, and completely was cleared out for Donna Anna’s phrasing. Al told us that the orchestra is entirely composed of baroque instruments (the woodwinds and brass we could see, but violins we were not sure until being informed). This the the largest orchestra I have seen of my 3 times here (2x Tancredi, then N.Stutzmann’s own orchestra). I can’t remember if they were using baroque bows in 2014 because at that time i thought the orchestra was great with fine details. Last night they were using modern bows, which we assume because they needed a more robust sound for Don Giovanni ? In any case, it was blasting at the start and took a bit of time to let the singers express freely.

Some quick notes on the staging. The opening scene already featured 2 young women in very short skirts draping themselves over DonG and Leporello. As the stage rotated, we were first provided a visual of Donna Anna expressing pleasure while receiving oral treatment from DonG. She then “woke” up and being coerced by him in various poses on the bed… This theme continues with Donna Elvira touching self in bed to “Ah! chi mi dice mai” . Leporello then revealed a doll puppet to which he undressed and fantasizing over. This continued onto the next Masetto & Zerlina wedding scene with full draping of the female chorus in wedding gown on their male counterparts. Yes, the opera is disturbing. On top of it, I think much of the staging is feasting on it to provide eye-candies and further treat female bodies as fantasizing tools being put on display. Perhaps that’s why the whole show also didn’t settle for me until Donna Anna appeared in a black (very fine) suit! It’s an unusual move, and actually put into perspective the independence of Donna Anna’s. Al also mentioned it captures her entrapment in formality (or something like that, I did not get this point though and would love to hear more). What I do like is that she is often discussing and keeping herself balanced, and Don Ottavio is often seen as the one approaching her space and constantly wanting to keep the pair “appearance”. I’m still trying to understand Donna Elvira’s mindset. We first saw her fantasizing on bed, while often I had the vision of Cecilia Bartoli’s fist clenching and seething approach. Either is fine I think as long as we could see how she evolves.. in this case I can not quite tell anything about her. She is seen smoking through the windows while DonG is scheming and switching with Leporello during “Deh, vieni alla finestra” (the mandolin is sooooo cute!!!), then proceeded to sleep with DonG double without even knowing so.. She can been seen defiant at times, such as during the trio with DonnaA and DonO, or when pointing fingers at Leporello after “Mi tradì, quell’alma ingrata” , or when she arrived to snatch Zerlina away from DonG, or intruding into his conversation with DonnaA+DonO (which led to the trio). Surprisingly her duet with DonnaA at the end was omitted! But all in all, I am not sure what personality or resolve she has, and whether she’s simply running after DonG for the flesh. Even Leporello is a bit quick to switch, so he’s as much enjoying doing what DonG does when given the chance, given how quickly he embodied the seducer’s move without any hint of conflict/struggle. I really enjoyed Zerlina’s last aria, something neither Dehggi nor I have ever heard before! She was in a scene with only Leporello (and with a shaving knife), but her phrasing to start was just gorgeous. I did get her confused at that point with DonnaE simply because of the context (even though their voices are quite different). DonO is really seen as a needy guy constantly trying to close the space between him and DonnaA. Finally, the Commendatore, I’m sorry, but we really need a bass! His clear “high” notes in the final showdown “Don Giovanni” was floating ABOVE the orchestra! (while i was expecting it to line the base and providing rumble). His thin voice was completely masked out when the orchestra went full strength during the final passage, so the famous duet/trio because a solo with DonG singing to the orchestra prior to being pushed into the furnace.

Staging-wise, aside from all the eye-candies and not quite developed characters above, I really like the usage of the stage space, to narrow things, efficiently shifts between scenes, and the use of the morgue bed. To me Papatanasiu’s singing (and subtle body balance) stood out because she gave a layer to DonnaA’s character. We had glimpses into her mindset, her struggle with her father’s loss, and perhaps what appeared to be her independence. She made decision on her own, using her own head, and body angles / postures / gestures. Interestingly Al made a note that her body gestures are quite similar to Anja Harteros’! Which got me thinking when i first saw her coming up on the grass field in Alcina half of the time i had the image of Harteros’ in head!

So that’s a wrap up, in extreme rambling fashion, of an opera I don’t know much about, but highlighting what draws my attention the most. Here’s the curtain call of the opening night, and more chance to see that fine fine suit! Off to Antonacci we go for my last night here!

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About thả diều
writing-challenged opera-addict

91 Responses to Don Giovanni at Théâtre des Champs Elysées, 5/Dec/2016

  1. Anik LaChev says:

    Aaaaaaaah, thank you!
    (and now I’ll go read it)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Anik LaChev says:

    okay, after reading it: still AAAAAAAAH.
    (rushing out to a meeting now, will commetn in more detail afterwards!)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Anik LaChev says:

    okay, now with some more quiet – thank you for taking the time to go into so much detail with your impression of the voices.
    TCE sounds (not for the first imte this year) like the venue to be.
    And, yes, phrasing and certain singers who just manage to show layers and layers in recitatives… taken together with dehggi#s review, I’d say that Papatanasiu is simply well-versed enough with Anna to have more freedome simply because she has so much experience with the material, but I would imagine that part of it is also artistic dedication – the first review I read this morning spoke of her “no holds barred” take and I think there is no clearer point for that than the recit before Or sai chi l’onore.
    It’s interesting in this production which is from all I’ve seen of it and heard about it, looking very much at the Don (as opposed to, say, Amsterdam where it was about everyone using the Don as a projection space of sorts, or as a principle they struggled and/or strove to relate to), and not really at everyone else beyond configurations that get a morgue-ish perspective. It feels, even if you just tak the current trailer, like a detached experiment recount, and against that backdrop, your account of someone NOT the Don pulling focus and building motivations and layers is very interesting (and also a testimony to Papatanasiu’s acting and phraisng chops because from what I understand from the concept outlay, that’s not what the evening was designed to be). it’s reminding me a bit of our discussion around the Rennes Traviata liveblog, where it’s also that “don’t judge your part and go all in to then go all out” approach – was this in any way similar, from a point of individual artistic choice?
    I’m interested also in what Agathe might comment because Don Giovanni is always somewhat icky in being men looking at women, and often it is staged as what you call “eye candy” – I got the feeling it was dissected so much and overall not leading up to “who might be attracted to whom?” but “let’s just put all possible attraction out there as statements, not as developments”, but I haven’t seen it live or in full, so I can only guess.
    Either way: cannot wait for the radio broadcast (Jan 1st, apparently!)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. dehggial says:

    I think that’s exactly what this Donna Elvira wants from the Don (flesh) and she’s also obsessed enough at this point to sleep with anyone remotely resembling Don Giovanni.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Agathe says:

    Thank you both thadieu and Degghi for sharing your accounts! You both did not seem enthusiastic about the staging and, as Anik said, it is very difficult to judge only from reviews/trailer so I don’t feel I can add a lot. In general I find Don G a work to have very interesting, very humane characters and a lot of opportunities for those characters to interact, so when a staging is only about “everybody loves Don G and is having sex with anyone if they can’t have him”, that is a waste of opportunities, and funny, how people making out on stage can get extremely boring if that is the approach. It’s also true, that it can get icky, especially if the women are shown as helpless victims of Don G’s charm, still I think that is a question of interpretation in the staging.
    Donna Anna in a suit and your friend commenting that it means her being “entrapped in formality”: It could be even worse, meaning her being “buttoned-up”, while Don G awakes her sensuality=loss of control, and that really would be icky.
    But, again, I haven’t seen it, and after the recent Berlin abduction which, gave a completely different impression from the critics and even the trailer, I really can’t judge without having seen it.
    Btw. I’m quite tired of Don Ottavio always being so boring and weak and unappealing, for a change I’d really like to see him displayed more attractive and determined maybe with a bit more dramatic voice and that would change dynamics for Donna Anna, too. Why not display him as a strong partner, really supporting Donna Anna in her fight against the rapist Don G? Plenty of opportunities for all these characters, and I hope I’ll see a lot more interesting productions, coming up with new ideas or new interpretations of old ideas.

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    • Anik LaChev says:

      From what saw, ist looked like Anna switches from nightshirt/dress to suit after Or sai chi l’onore? When did that happen, Dr. T?
      And yes, a strong Ottavio, the women irrevocably obsessed with Giovanni, and Giovanni bot being romanticized…!
      The more I read, I am unsure about the continued slew of stylized sex acts -again that line between objectification and critique? Agathe is right, we cannot say much without having seen it fully, it it really might go either way.

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      • thả diều says:

        Finally, a morning where I don’t have to be at the conference at 8am (though i have not made it any morning so far :D, even showed up 40min late for my own poster session, *with* people waiting!)

        But i have been wanting to ask a list of questions. Let’s start with 1 here: Donna Anna. I was quite intrigued when Dehggi mentioned how “buttoned up” and “back to her middle-class” comments, and now wanting to unwrap a bit this character as a whole, as well as in this production:

        In this one, she has the most changed clothes. In the first scene, she’s in that night-gown outfit. After running off, she came back with the additional white shirt and a school-girl-uniform looking miniskirt with ripple. In Vietnam, we’d call these type of skirt-wearing “country-side” look, nothing sophisticated, very simple. And i was already struck by that when she first appeared back. It gave the impression she’s still quite young, high-school age(?) and has not been exposed much to street-life or fashion. The next scene, quartet, she’s already in this super-shiny-executive suit. In a way this is a bit of a conflict to the previous image. If given the previous skirt, I’d have dressed her also in a similar skirt, darker in color, much more covered at the top, super conservative. But here, my goodness, that suit!

        The next scene we see of hers, if i’m correct, is the DonG’s party scene, where she’s totally wrapped up in long dress (but still with that see-through undershirt). I was at this point “disappointed” thinking it was the last i saw of that suit.. Then after intermission, following the scene of body-swapping between DonG and Leporello, she’s back, this time with the absolutely buttoned-up coat, buttoned all the way to the top covering just about everything. I’m quite puzzled about this outfit: why the coat? if we were to button her up, she would have done so already during the scene in the morgue (there the see-through undershirt was in full display!) She continued with this coat until the end, and only swapped it with the super-nice jacket for the curtain call look (that jacket was not part of the outfit after that 1 scene).

        First, clearly, we see MP is more happy with the nice jacket 😉 . But for me, there’s inconsistency in how she’s dressed. I’m trying to work it out in head, that perhaps we’re also seeing a transition of DonnaA from innocence (the school-girl-skirt when first in arm of DonO) to closing it all up / shutting it out to deal with the sexual assault (the coat). What’s left out is the very nice jacket, i don’t really think it fits except for the look (hey! i’m not entirely complaining!!) In this sense, the shutting down / shunning out after assault is quite unnerving, yet her body gestures and the constant seeking of balance on her own, seems to reveal a contrast as well compared to the complete leaning on DonO during the discovery of her father’s death, and the beginning of the morgue scene. Due to MP’s body stance, DonnaA is really seen as voicing her opinion and making a separation from DonO, rather than tuning out the world to deal with the assault. Every opportunity she has, she stepped 1/3 of the stage away from DonO, standing very vertical and assured, hands gesturing in defined angle/direction/intention, pointing fingers, accusing in tone, assuring in strength. Then DonO immediately try to close the space. In the 2nd to last ensemble, when DonnaE was saying she’s heading to the convent, DonnaA again walked diagonally away, standing front and center, singing and demanding Leporello to reveal what exactly happened to DonG. So if anything, I’d conclude quite different from Dehggi, that after this whole thing she’s moving on past DonO altogether. It’s still unknown how / if she’s dealing with the assault, because besides the buttoned-up coat, i think the staging and/or MP’s body stance does not quite reveal. Again, one can also read this as “being tough on the surface” and that she might collapse emotionally after this whole DonG thing is over..

        (apology for grammar errors, now i really need to get going to the conference..)

        Liked by 1 person

        • dehggial says:

          Every opportunity she has, she stepped 1/3 of the stage away from DonO, standing very vertical and assured, hands gesturing in defined angle/direction/intention, pointing fingers, accusing in tone, assuring in strength.

          I agree with that; in fact that is the only time DA made an impression on me all night (like I said, DA is never someone I focus on). She’s very self assured there. I can’t say anything about the earlier stages (assault and after) when she’s weaker. I tried to think about it now and I really can’t comment one way or another on what they tried to convey other than she’s stunned by what is happening/ has happened.

          I think you guys here have thought a lot more (and in different directions than usually seen on stage) about the possible directions the plot could take than most stage directors. Also a lot more than I have ever thought about DG 😉

          to Anik:

          there does not seem that much depth planned in the staging other than for Giovanni/Leporello?

          I don’t think there is. In any case, I didn’t pick any up. My impression of most/usual stagings I have seen is they pick one line of development and tend to neglect the rest of the characters. So if they sell it as DG/Leporello that’s what you’re going to get.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Agathe says:

          Are you sure, in this production, that Donna Anna was „assaulted“? As pointed out in the articles/conference stray and Anik recently posted, the text of the libretto quite clearly says Don G tried to rape her, but, very often, in stagings, Donna A is shown as being attracted to Don G and seduced by him. Definitely problematic, but this apparently makes for a more interesting storyline in many people’s view. So, maybe, if interpreted like that, Donna Anna’ portrayal in the Paris production makes more sense. i.e. struggling with the engagement to Don O because of inner conflict and so on? Maybe you are confused because you (rightly) see it as an assault but was meant otherwise by the director?

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          • thả diều says:

            Are you sure, in this production, that Donna Anna was “assaulted””?
            she was wresstled and forced on the bed several times with DonG on top, rather quite physical… and before that while she was sleeping he was already under the blanket doing things… , that s why i called it assaulted.. surelh to make anyone traumatized psychlogically. for sure she is not at any time showing her attraction to or flirting w DonG in this prod. not related to that, she seems to detatch herself from DonO, as if after being assaulted and father died, and a whiny DonO was making her seeing she doesnt need him to cope… this was such a contrast to when she was in that timid skirt passing out on the floor upon learning her father had died. to me it s almost a turning point, a transformation of a character. As much as i like this appraoch, i am confused by how fast she is showing independence and resolution while coping.. but it appears she wants DonO out of the equation.

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          • Agathe says:

            Ah, OK, but then it sounds like quite a good approach in this prodction? Not playing down the assault, showing how she is coping. What you say about her change of clothes symbolizing her development makes sense to me. From that point of view the suit would be a symbol of growing strength and independence rather than meaning conventions/middle class I guess.
            Also, with regard to Don O, the breaking up of a relationship after a personal catastrophe is not so unrealistic I think, all the more if the partner is pushy instead of supportive.
            But in general, and independently of the staging, I find the character of Donna A rather difficult to grasp compared to Donna E. Maybe that’s because it’s often not clear if what she is saying/singing are her true emotions or just proclaiming the socially acceptable.

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          • Anik LaChev says:

            I wonder whether perhaps what makes Anna possibly “difficult” to read is that baggage of sexual projection that clouts the reception history (not just of the story, also of the music)? One can see different undercurrents, but what happens at the libretto level is “Is assaulted, loses father, tries to deal with it”
            I still wonder how and when we have been culturally conditioned to read the music in relation to desire in a very specific way (but the monumentalization of Giovanni at large is a 19th century legacy, too).

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          • Agathe says:

            Yes, that makes sense, and the mismatch of libretto and staging history is really confusing. And the seduction tale is really very much internalized (wasn’t it suggested by Adorno, I think you wrote that sometimes?). When I first got to know Don G, this was the story presented to me, I can’t even remember if it was in the staging or if someone even explained it to me like that, and only some years later, I payed attention to the subtitles in a different performance and was quite struck by the actual description of the scene.
            I’m not sure if I understand your last sentence correctly, but I feel the problem might be, that we can clearly hear the emotion and distress in Donna Anna’s music but can’t for sure distinguish the exact origin of the emotion, so this leaves room to interpret unhappy love for Don G mixing into her mourning her father. While, in fact, being assaulted and loosing the father, would, from a modern viewpoint, be absolutely convincing reasons for deep personal distress, so yes, really strange, why this does not seem to convince most directors.
            And now, I’ve been thinking a bit about it, I wonder where my feeling of „we can’t know if she really means what she says“ comes from, because there is actually no reason to doubt her words, internalized staging history, I guess.

            Liked by 2 people

          • Anik LaChev says:

            Internalized staging history, but also internalized analysis, I think – thr way(mostly male) musicologists and critics have written about it

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          • Anik LaChev says:

            Sorry, didn’t mean to send this off just yet. Stupid tiny buttons on the tiny phone…

            I find it staggering to look at the libretto and the music – Giovanni doesn’t manage a single seduction during the opera and those attempts we see, minus the maid of Elvira, are all tinged with violence – and then look at the “eternal womanizer successful by default isn’t he something” talk.
            Nevermind particularly Kierkegaard’s psychoanalytical take on Anna being forever fixated on Giovanni and not wanting Ottavio any longer because she has had/nearly had Giovanni (though in Kierkegaard’s terms, that’s probably ‘was being had’ because God forbid we think of women as sexual subject outside of pathological hysterics), and really who could want anyone else after him?
            It romanticizes violence against women and objectification of women (I find much of classic psychoanalysis very much gendered – not that it does not have a point, but it is often a very male point) and our culture is so horrifyingly blind to it.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Agathe says:

            (You wrote all this on the phone?)
            Yes, I absolutely agree. Actually, I very much liked your and thadieu’s discussion on how there is no deeper reason for the coat MP wears, other than the season, because yes, over-analysis can be annoying (in opera and real/professional life as well) and often has a very patronizing air (even more so when it’s men analysing women, as you say). Sure, questioning and understanding character’s motifs in opera and in individual stagings is super interesting and part of the fun, but there is no reason why characters should be subject to an outdated (pseudo-)science in modern perception.

            I hadn’t really thought abut how character analysis turns up in opera guides, yes, sure, and there’s always the problem of „it’s in the books/this important person has written it, so it must be true“.

            But, I also think there are advances, your point of the unsuccessful Don G I only recently heard in a similar form on the radio, so things may be changing (sadly, this has no reached Currentzis yet, it seems).

            Liked by 1 person

          • thả diều says:

            Thanks Agathe. I have been indeed thinking whether i’m now getting a bit too deep into “over analyzing” any tiny thing MP-related.. but I don’t think so 😉 . I think generally when a singer triggers something in my curiosity I started asking questions.. dating back to my excursions to hear VK singing, I was always doing the same thing, including those episodes of her Ruggiero (where i questioned for some 6 years on some of her moves/phrase), her Disinganno (in concert, where I couldn’t figure out why she was breathing such way), and most extensively her Romeo where i was in full swooning mode..

            Again, i think when a singer can offer you glimpses into the character, that’s when i have questions / seek answers. Otherwise, i don’t get and simply move on.

            “it’s in the books/this important person has written it, so it must be true”
            Yes, this was always my newbie approach before, “trusting” the “experts” and not questioning..

            I didn’t catch the last point at all.. but last night, i dug up a MET version I had with A.Harteros as DonnaA, because i was quite curious of her take.. and reading the “review”, i realize indeed it’s good we’re discussing things here, because they’re still going strong with the idea “DonG is so irresistible” and “all the women are making themselves subject of ridicules while chasing after him”…

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          • Agathe says:

            Oh I didn’t at all mean you were over-analysing, I meant this mainly with regard to classical psychoanalysis (with it’s main message of practically every human motive having a sexual background). It does have some interesting points but many flaws as well and as far as I know (I’m no expert on this) is today regarded to be of mainly historical interest in modern psychology, but apparently still plays a strong role in how fictional (opera) characters are perceived.

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          • thả diều says:

            oh, now i get it! i couldn’t figure out where Anik’s latest reply fits, i thought she might have a rough Sunday and went on a rant :p. so you were both discussing the subject! blame it on squinting at airports, and i think wp shuffles the replies around so sometimes i have no clue who is replying to what.

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          • Anik LaChev says:

            yeah, the Currentzis – I have a few reactions to that DonG. There are some bits I like a lot, some bits that leave me puzzled, and some that don’t click with me. Although I admit that I went in warily because my perspective comes with a default distrust of genius narratives and bad manners.

            Back to Anna. *g*- I didn’t see your comment before today, or I would have answered sooner. I still need to think more about the ‘overanalyzing’, which we sometimes absolutely do, probably. Sometimes a coat is just a coat. But depending on who looks at it, it will mean different things to different people, even if the production side only thought, “Ah well. Morgues are cold. Also, winter.”
            I’m now glowering at all the opera guides I read as a teenager, and all the pseudo-intellectual analysis that posed as neutral while it was not, and I bought into so much of it… after reading thadieu’s comment below, with the Anna screenshots and how MP had her pass out, I went back to be mad at the classical Freudian Anna take of “replacing father as sexual object with other man” and the interpretation of “So Anna is in hysterics when her father gets killed because she feels guilty because he got killed over a sexual encounter she secretly enjoyed”.
            Which, okay, is one way to look at it. But is it more plausible than: “got assaulted and then has a central protective figure ripped away from her in addition, that’s enough to pass out, thank you”?
            Why are we so prone to reading female characters only in relation to the male characters around them? Which, of course, is linked to the fact that there are – in works mostly written by men – more male characters to go around, and they get the storylines that are not defined by how they relate to women. Even Giovanni, with his “ma in Ispagna già 1003”, is not sees as much in relation to the women he seduces as to the act of seduction. And, like in much of later 18th century theatre, we only see the father figure – Anna’s mother is not present. Short version: Patriarchy. Grumble.
            And then it’s a blend of what you said with “Everyone can relate to this figures somehow” (I don’t understand yet why that is the case, but I absolutely agree that yes, that is the case), and these characters translate so well to different times that all read them differently, but what do inherent patriarchal constellations do to our brains, and how can we shake them off and look at other interpretation angles?
            (sorry, this isn’t really an answer at all. This is just me thinking aloud)

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          • Agathe says:

            Yes, absolutely and I’d say that can even be more generalized, but patriarchal structures probably already explain most of the cake in relation to inherent constellations. That’s super interesting, would we like the same things if the society we have grown up in had been fundamentally different?
            With regard to Mozart’s characters I’m still not sure whether their relatability is not to over 90% explained by the music, too bad Mozart didn’t write arias for inert objects, so we could further analyze this hypothesis.
            And the missing mothers in opera, hell yes, that had not occurred to me yet. And can it be that the Queen of the Night is the only really famous mother character in opera (and a bad one…)?

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        • Anik LaChev says:

          Oh, a lot of intriguing questions! – what exactly was the morgue scene? The quartet before Or sai chi l’onore?

          From all I’ve read/seen, the female roles and their backstories are not the focus of the production, it’s Giovanni/Leporello, so there may simply be gaps. Or that skirt was simply one not-thought-out choice?
          If you have to make sense of it because you have to move within the production, I’d say you’re likely in pajamas when getting assaulted while asleep in your own bed (setting aside for now the whole problematic reception history that has construed Giovanni entering Anna’s living space unbidden large as “desired/not so bad/but isn’t he seductive/she must have wanted it/clearly no woman would say no to him”). You rush back in to get help, are you honestly thinking about putting on clothes? – What are the explanations?
          1) original singer/current singer did not want to sing the entire scene in underwear (remember us puzzling over the end of Semiramide? Another piece: the curtain call with the sharper suit) 2) Ottavio asked Anna to put on some clothes because what will the neighbors say
          3) Anna chooses to dress more fully before alerting Ottavio which would make a point about not wanting to be seen undressed by him, and she would likely grab the first thing in her path, even if it’s a hockey skirt. (perhaps also a comment on youth? …am not comfortable with the red, either. It’s like a Giovanni handprint.)

          The covering up as reaction to assault works, I would say – perhaps from the simply more austere person in mourning who removes herself from outward staging of feminine desirability (which does not work on our demographic since we don’t find trousers on women to necessrily signify less feminnity/desirability) to the person who has identified her attacker and then reacts by bundling up? Or perhaps it’s supposed to be winter?!
          The dress for the ball scene as a costume is self-explanatory (I would blame anything see-through beyonf that on the male gaze).

          Your observations on balance/energy/spatial distance throw late on an appealing Anna take, because apparently is neither all “oh, she is nothing but traumatized” nor does it sound like “she’s hung up on Giovanni” (both takes that deny Anna agency). Rather, it seems she got to call her own shots, even within a concept that did not focus much on her.

          (It would be really interesting to know what thoughts went into the costume design back in 2013 – from what I could find on Sophie Marin-Degor, she wore the same outfits at the same points, so if there is any backsotry, it likely happened in 2013.)

          Liked by 1 person

          • Anik LaChev says:

            On the other hand, the costumes have clearly garnered some junior fans.

            (as has MP’s singing, check the swoony fan at shortly after the 2:00 mark 😉
            https://www.facebook.com/Th%C3%A9%C3%A2tre-des-Champs-Elys%C3%A9es-111841808833392/

            Like

          • Anik LaChev says:

            (Interestingly enough, it’s all girls in that TCE video, and none of them address sexism or assault or objectification)

            Liked by 1 person

          • thả diều says:

            to be fair, if i was not in conversation with you and Agathe, not sure if i would manage to look deeper into this.. rather than “just go with the typical flow” of staging. I think for newbies we have the task of navigating what we think is “supposed” to be the staging versus what is actually written in the libretto/music and free for interpretation. I’m very glad we had our summer festival which covered this opera. There’s another one i’m still clueless about, which Stray told me is very problematic: the Magic flute. Given my tendency to totally skip the libretto and go with the music though, I think i might still draw something out of what MP’s portrayed here, as well as ACA as DonnaE.. but i’m still doubting self able to dissect it further if not for you both’s inputs. (Stray also raised a lot of points, but sometimes her points went passed my head 🙂 , and i jugged it down as “not quite understand” )

            Like

          • Agathe says:

            I think we planned to put the magic flute on our list anyway? Much to discuss about Mozart a’ operas and I think there is more to it than just “gorgeous music but racist/misogynist stories” but I haven’t completely figured it out for myself, so I’m hoping for new insights as well. Something recently said in Anik’s blog about Mozart and Da Ponte treating their characters with kindness has been going around in my head and might have to do with most of Mozart’s characters being quite likeable in their human imperfections (well, some more than others, see Don G). They also constitute a great projection space for what we bring in as an an individual in the audience, just as you said regarding Donna Elvira.
            And thanks for the screenshots, yes, I can well imagine MP bringing in a strong character portrayal on her own.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Anik LaChev says:

            Hm, did Petibon ever sing a full stage Queen of the Night that was filmed…?

            And I don’t mean to scoff at the girls in the video, I just find it telling overall that young women who grow up with debates on sexism and consent don’t focus on this. And Agathe and I were just the same – look at how often we say, in our conversations, “I never questioned this!” And it took us a decade or two on working on such things to connect the dots.
            Of course it’s beautiful and overwhelming, and it is great to see more young people get this magic and be awed by it. But I look at myself and ask my younger self, “how did you ever just find it a plausible and romantic idea that Anna sits at home waiting for someone masked to climb through her window at night unasked who then threatens her with violence?”
            And I try to remember which opera guides I read, at age 11 or 13, who sold me this vision, and who wrote them.
            And who never problematized the “well… He is simply irresistible” narrative.
            To quote Nick Fury: “…but given that it’s a stupid-ass narrative, I’ve decided to ignore it”
            But that’s actually not true – I don’t mean ignore the narrative of the libretto, I just find it problematic how this narrative is sold in a very slanted view.

            Like

          • thả diều says:

            but I feel the problem might be, that we can clearly hear the emotion and distress in Donna Anna’s music but can’t for sure distinguish the exact origin of the emotion, so this leaves room to interpret unhappy love for Don G mixing into her mourning her father. While, in fact, being assaulted and loosing the father, would, from a modern viewpoint, be absolutely convincing reasons for deep personal distress
            On this point, i wanted to now attach this TCE’s photo:

            DonnaA completely passed out in this staging, very effective acting by MP i must admit. i was caught by surprise for some reason, because from the various DonG’s stagings I’ve seen she was never this stressed out. In this particular case I thought DonnaA was “in shock” when discovered a man in her apartment, then the physical fighting, etc.. but she was absolutely in distraught when discovered her father was gone (uttered a “scream”, then dropped. In the photo, DonO was talking to himself, because DonnaA was non-responsive/unconscious). From real-life perspective, to completely pass out (because her acting was so realistic) for me is an event of true devastation, and I could see how after this her life has forever changed.

            Thanks to both of you (Agathe and Anik) explanation, I think i got it now:
            Yes, the first skirt, one could interpret that she grabbed the first available thing to cover herself up, hence barely tucked in or button up the white shirt. In this sense, yes, the skirt could also give hint to innocence and simplicity. I’m still really struck by the image i had when MP portrayed DonnaA passing out. Last time i got such an image stuck in head was the view of Giulietta lying in the tomb in Munich. Something very tragic about them both.

            what exactly was the morgue scene? The quartet before Or sai chi l’onore?
            Onto the next scene though, because whoever was posting the TCE’s photo album seems to really did us a favor with “screen cap”:

            The “Morgue scene” started with DonnaA and DonO in the morgue “viewing” her father on the table (can’t remember, but i think he was fully covered already). Then the recit
            “Ah! ch’ora, idolo mio, son vani i pianti, di vendetta
            si parli… Ah, Don Giovanni!”

            followed by the quartet, followed by the scene in the photo above when she discovered it was DonG who killed her farther. As i mentioned, i had originally the trouble with the contrast in fashion between the skirt and the suit, but I think what you both explained made sense to me, along with the fact that time has elapsed and we are now seeing a transition in DonnaA already.

            Finally, the last “screen cap”:

            Originally i didn’t see that DonO also swapped out his jacket for the coat. So yes, perhaps it is winter.. because if it is DonnaA alone covering everything up in response to seeing DonG and recognizing/reminding of the assault DonO would have no reason to also swap out his outfit. There is something in the libretto though that can also help us understand why DonnaA now wanted a separation: when she requested DonO’s revenge:
            “Non dubitate più: gli ultimi accenti che l’empio
            proferì, tutta, la voce richiamar nel cor mio di
            quell’indegno che nel mio appartamento…”

            DonO’s first response was:
            Oh ciel! possibile che sotto il sacro manto
            d’amicizia…

            I recalled immediately upon seeing this (in the surtitle in French) already thinking so DonO and DonG was apparently “buddy” in some form (male form?), and DonO was more doubting DonnaA’s claim and giving his buddy the benefit of the doubt which triggered DonnaA’s rather soonish response of distancing herself from this male-buddy-trust-above-all thing.

            Rather, it seems she got to call her own shots, even within a concept that did not focus much on her.
            Yes, this. I processed all the above via seeing and hearing MP’s portrayal (vocal+acting), which I will now give her the credit for bringing them across to build layers in DonnaA, esp. when that was not the focus at all. Again, as I didn’t know this character at all (Pieczonka didn’t really provide much impression for me one way or another, even though i was really impressed with her singing), which i think might have been a bonus because you can interpret it directly based on your intake, and when it gives you such a detailed impression, then credit must go to where it’s due, MP.

            (ps- I’m still trying to figure out why i did not see DonnaE clearly but it works out well for Dehggi. I think perhaps we operate only within our own experience as to how to sympathize / identify / understand a person/character. It’s quite possible I have not been exposed to someone such as this DonnaE so i simply can not figure her out.. even though i could with ACA’s, which is a very very different approach which I can identify with).

            Liked by 3 people

          • stray says:

            This is really beginning to sound like that rarest of creatures, a production of Don Giovanni worth the time it takes to sit through 😛

            Like

          • Anik LaChev says:

            Or at least worth dissecting?

            Liked by 1 person

          • thả diều says:

            This is really beginning to sound like that rarest of creatures, a productiin of Donna Anna worth the time it takes to sit through 😉

            Liked by 2 people

          • stray says:

            (I should probably note that whenever I get blasted with vitriol on the internet, it’s for saying something mean about the libretto of a Mozart opera.)

            Like

          • Anik LaChev says:

            We really should get down to Magic Flute, we could be team-blasted!

            Liked by 1 person

          • stray says:

            My asbestos underwear stands at the ready.

            Liked by 1 person

          • thả diều says:

            (merry xmas Stray! 🙂
            I tried to leave a message on your blog but bloggo was eating my comment like the cookie monster i was watching with my nieces)

            Like

          • stray says:

            Urgh! We really need to engineer some kind of holiday detente between Blogger and WP…but thanks for persevering.

            Merry Christmas to you, your nieces, and Cookie Monster!

            Like

    • stray says:

      That Don Ottavio would be (originally) Ramon Vargas in the Michael Grandage production of the continuous critical shelling… Just to give credit where credit is due 🙂

      Like

      • stray says:

        Though for an unconventionally badass Don Ottavio it’s hard to beat Francisco Negrin’s 2003 Glimmerglass production, where Don Ottavio engineered the whole talking statue thing as a set up to push Don G over the edge and eventually to suicide.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Agathe says:

          Thank you, stray, that sounds great, I’ll look those up!

          Like

        • Anik LaChev says:

          oh, badass Ottavio!
          (I think so much of making him milque toast is in the staging history, and not in the music – I always want him to jump across the obligatory staircase bannister with a blank weapon for “Tutto il mio sangue verserò” – the other kind of hothead, and then Anna being unable to deal with the pushy impatience of both him and Giovanni)

          Like

          • stray says:

            Yes! and then (as proposed over at Rob’s blog) looking past him to Donna Elvira 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

          • Anik LaChev says:

            to absolutely no one’s surprise, I would be here for that. – also, with all the focus on who could be ding whom which way and be hung up on it that permeates contemporary stagings of the opera, it’s kind of astonishing (or not?) that this hasn’t been done before (or perhaps it has, and we just don’t know about it).
            I also still like the Elvira/Zerlina vigilante team with an undercurrent: those two being propelled by their adventures with Giovanni to do away with class borders and start a revolution is something I would buy.

            Liked by 1 person

          • stray says:

            Ha! Say if DA / DE is the past and DE / Z is the future, we have ourselves a novel.

            Liked by 1 person

          • thả diều says:

            noooo, please work DA in there somehow! i did like DA/DE (this now looks like the total derivative that i’m deriving for the poster!)

            Like

          • Anik LaChev says:

            And an essay on negotiating social class in pre-revolutionary central Europe. I’m in!

            Liked by 2 people

          • stray says:

            Well, if we can say that Z is too mercurial to stick anything out for long, then perhaps we can say DE, being only semi-mercurial, will work her way back to DA, using whatever formula is necessary to make that happen?

            Like

          • Agathe says:

            …and for Zerlina not to stay alone, there is still Donna Elvira’s ominous maid, who is apparently very attractive, according to Don G.

            Liked by 3 people

          • Anik LaChev says:

            Oooh. And there goes the fanfic!

            Like

      • thả diều says:

        if you have fb account, TCE just updated the photo album for this production, so you can get a better impression of the staging (and view of that suit!!! she had the suit on beginning in the recit.. i cant recall yet now but it must b also there when she and DonO met DonG and DonnaE jumped in, after she just rescued Zerlina

        Like

        • Anik LaChev says:

          thanks for answering that – that puts it in the quartet, the scene whee Anna traditionally appears in “mourning outfit” (just now thinking back on the sentient monstrosity poor Pieczonka was sporting in the Vienna setting).
          Also, on DonG: just saw another few set pics of the TADW re-staging of the Keith Warner from 2006, and my reaction was “yeah… I’d prefer the TCE take.”

          Like

          • thả diều says:

            greetings from berkeley! interestingly she then swapped out that gorgeous suit jacket for the fully buttoned up coat immediately after… i think after the donO whiny aria…

            Like

          • Anik LaChev says:

            would make a solid comment on body self-image and self-defense for Anna after having not one, but two guys accost her mentally/physically in relation to sex. (not sure how Anna is drawn in the production or rather, what MP makes of her in that regard since there does not seem that much depth planned in the staging other than for Giovanni/Leporello? On one hand, there’s this endless line-up of sexual encounters where you said it’s kind of close to being exploitative, but on the other hand, there could still be some narrative arc for Anna dealing with assault and having it bleed into her dreamscape.

            Like

      • thả diều says:

        haaaaapy new year Stray! i tried to leave greetings at 3rdfl but blogo ate it, no fear, we’re persistent white-shirters! and i bought my plane tix for Feb !

        Liked by 1 person

        • stray says:

          Happy New Year! Do you have your acommodations arranged? I have cousins in Queens as well, if you need a place to crash 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

          • thả diều says:

            i’ll try to hook up first with my friend in Harlem… but just in case they’re out of town, is it possible? i have an crazy early flight next morning out of JFK (already meeting scheduled 3pm here at the office!) . are you planning to stay the night? we could grab dinner, my treat? if all goes well i land at 4.30pm at jfk, and probably takes 1,5 hr to navigate into manhattan

            Liked by 1 person

          • stray says:

            It is totally possible. I’m staying there overnight and I told them I might have another person or two with me, and they were cool with that. (And actually they would be coming to the concert if they didn’t have something else going on that night.)

            So we’ll leave that as the backup plan if your Harlem connection doesn’t work out. And yes, let’s plan to meet for dinner 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

          • thả diều says:

            ahhh, the things to keep us looking forward 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

          • thả diều says:

            (ps- i just saw on the map, queens is quite closer to JFK than Manhattan! is your cousins’ place near a subway? 🙂 )

            Like

          • stray says:

            They’re about ten blocks from Astoria Station (N Train).

            Like

  6. thả diều says:

    Thank you all for swinging by and leave really insightful comments on the ideas, characters, and stagings. I’d like to come back soon to ask a ton of questions… made it back home after a *very* long trip and have some pressing deadline until Sunday night, after which I will return to blogging and commenting… but for now, i’d refer you to Dehggi’s realllllllly great write-up of her impression at Opera Bastille.. (and a re-read of her DonG’s review, i really enjoyed it, and have more questions/comments coming soon…)

    Like

  7. Pingback: Not quite modern Don Giovanni (Théâtre des Champs Elysées, 5 December 2016) | opera, innit?

  8. dehggial says:

    this was such a contrast to when she was in that timid skirt passing out on the floor upon learning her father had died. to me it s almost a turning point, a transformation of a character. As much as i like this appraoch, i am confused by how fast she is showing independence and resolution while coping.. but it appears she wants DonO out of the equation.

    back to you guys’ ideas about the ladies going it on their own – maybe she’s not so much stronger rather doesn’t want anything to do with men anymore 😉

    Like

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