Don Giovanni’s Journey


There can be no better confirmation of the Bolshoi’s total integration into the world opera, dance and festival space, than its first two premieres of the present season. Both — the recent ballet and approaching opera first night — are the result of collaboration with world-famous companies and both have a French ‘accent’, so appropriate in the Year of France in Russia and of Russia in France. (We remind readers that the ballet season kicked off with a piece by the well-known choreographer Anjelin Preljocaj And Then, One Thousand Years’ Peace, uniting Bolshoi Ballet dancers and dancers from his own Company, based in Aix-en-Provence). Don Giovanni, which opens this season’s series of opera premieres also ‘comes’ from Aix-en-Provence. It is a co-production of the Bolshoi Theatre, the Festival international d’art lyrique d’ Aix-en-Provence, Teatro Real, Madrid and the Canadian Opera Company, Toronto.

Don Giovanni saw the light of day this summer in Aix-en-Provence. The Festival management, moreover, had a special role in mind for it — that of starting off the Festival season and of being its “main bombshell”.
“When The Ring and the Berlin Philharmonic’s four-year residency ended last year, the 2010 edition of the Aix Festival looked destined to be anti-climax. Instead, Bernard Foccroulle’s first real season got off to a scorching start with a thrillingly accomplished Don Giovanni that caught us off guard and generated a lively festival buzz”. (Financial Times, 09.07.2010).
“The previous Don Giovanni at the Festival in Aix-en-Provence was in 1998 and done by Claudio Abbado and Peter Brook. It marked Stefane Lissner’s ‘debut’ as Artistic Director of the Festival. This year Bernard Foccroulle, his successor, chose the same work, which bears witness to a change in direction for the Festival and an open return to roots ... Don Giovanni — ‘the opera of operas’ in Wagner’s words — is an ideal work for declaration of principles”. (El Pais, 30.07.2010)

And the Russian production team, headed by director Dmitri Tcherniakov (who as usual acts too as scenographer and also — “partly” — as costume designer), has declared its principles. His “brothers-in-arms” are costume designer Elena Zaitseva and lighting designer Gleb Filshtinsky.

The production has aroused much argument. Some see it as a radical reconsideration of the Mozart opera, to others, on the contrary, it is a return to the roots of the drama. But virtually all noted its coherent and logical structure.

Don Giovanni at Aix-en-Provence festival. Kerstin Avemo as Zerlina, Bo Skovhus as Don Giovanni.

“The idea impresses by its subtlety, non-triviality and at the same time by its penetrating simplicity. One feels a sense of obsession about the detailed way it (the production) is constructed, it comes close to being overloaded with detail, but the integrity of the crazy drama is regulated with deadly precision. The impression is mind-blowing, and the impact ‘that’s exactly right, why has this never been thought of before’, is very strong. Tcherniakov produces Don Giovanni as a detective drama. With an unexpected, but amazingly clear outcome. The logic, method and association make the action similar to cinema, which literally emerges out of the Mozartian horror and lightness. It is therefore harsh, sad and just slightly ironical. Tcherniakov doesn’t invent anything, he ‘subtexts’ the opera, as if he is writing a psychological word-for-word translation. And confronts the actors with tasks akin to those of the cinema”. (Vremya novostey, 07.07.2010)

The production is cinematographic not only from the point of view of the acting and the logic of the unfolding drama — it brings to mind many classic film masterpieces. In their reviews of the production critics — both Russian and foreign — refer to the following among other movies: Pasolini’s Teorema, Winterberg’s The Celebration, Visconti’s Gruppo di una famiglia in un interno and La caduta degli dei (The Damned) , Malle’s Milou en mai, Bertolucci’s Stealing Beauty and Last Tango in Paris...

“Actually, this new Don Giovanni is good, almost great, nostalgically familiar cinema, to which one keeps wanting to give a name, but which keeps eluding a precise definition of genre and epoch. First-class director’s cinema, which one is watching in a theatre, — such is the paradox”. (Kultura, 22-28.07.2010).

The production offers a new view of the Don Juan myth, maximally reducing the image of the world surrounding the hero and, accordingly, concentrating the conflict of the opera.

An international team of singers will give form to the director’s conception. The four soloists who took part in the series of first night performances at the Aix Festival, will be coming to Moscow. These are: Kerstin Avemo (Zerlina), Colin Balzer (Don Ottavio), Anatoli Kotscherga (Commendatore) and David Bizic (in Aix he sang Mazetto, in Moscow he will be Leporello). Making their debut in the production are: Dimitris Tiliakos and Franco Pomponi (Don Giovanni), Guido Loconsolo (Leporello), Susan Gritton and Birgitte Christensen (Donna Anna), Rainer Trost (Don Ottavio), in addition to the Bolshoi Theatre soloist Yekaterina Shcherbachenko (Donna Elvira), Novosibirsk Theatre of Opera and Ballet soloist Veronika Jioeva (Donna Elvira) and Maryinsky Theatre soloist Eduard Tsanga (Mazetto) and Alina Yarovaya, a Bolshoi Youth programme member (Zerlina).
On the podium will be Bolshoi Theatre resident guest conductor Teodor Currentzis.