Interviewed - Alberto Triola
On the stage of the National Theatre you are setting the opera with an unusual Shakespearean mixture of serenity, tragedy and fantasy whose main character is an unrestrained, reckless lover. From your director’s point of view, who is nowadays Don Giovanni and what is he like?
You have perfectly emphasized the issue this master piece is focused on. As dramma giocoso this is the unique mixture of comic and tragic. My interpretation aims to present and point out both dimensions. This opera is like a life itself. Human bodies are intertwined, often in an unraveling way and they consist of various elements, sometimes the opposite ones. Don Giovanni is, in my opinion, a very smart and fascinating, charming gentleman who finds entertainment in domination over other minds. A maniacal puppet master, lucid, and even a sadist who finds pleasure in seducing and then manipulating others. One of the consequences of this “cruel game” is that he creates in his victims an awful and unhealthy, even morbid addiction to himself. He becomes their need, such as drugs and they become condemned to follow him everywhere. He gives an impression of an important, handsome, attractive, interesting, even the unique man. People tend to fall in love with such a person easily and they seem to be unable to live without that person. An ideal surrounding for such a character (or criminal mind), where he can best express his character is a theatre- fascinating space for our imagination, the best place for illusions. A theater is the privileged place where the connection with the universal Spirit can be found, where anybody can rise and feel as a part of Everything. However, it is simultaneously a very dangerous place if we take into account the risks of Ego. A theatre can be the fruitful soil where seductiveness, appearance and imagination of our “shadow” can over expand. That is the dimension artists know perfectly well.
So, what is nowadays Don Giovanni like?
Our Don Giovanni is the perfect expression of a “theatre demon”, a kind of charismatic (perhaps supernatural…) great director, who chooses people and give them a chance of becoming “someone”, in order to express himself out of frames, to have the feeling of being unique. This usually happens when Ego takes the control over mind, which is the biggest passion of an artist, but it is his curse as well. When we give too much space and power to Ego, we lose connections with Everything and we are prone to addictions and obsessions. This is exactly what happens to our characters. I imagine them like people of the theatre: Donna Elvira is an actress, Donna Anna is a dresser, Zerlina is a cleaner and Masetto is a stage technician. Laporello is a stage manager (material, physical side of Don Giovanni, someone who perfectly knows the opportunities and risks of the “space of illusions”. We discover who Don Ottavio was before the encounter with Don Giovanni at the very end… The Commendatore represents a rare case of a person completely exempted from the Ego threat. He doesn’t react at all to the mirror Don Giovanni seduces his victims with and puts them under his control. The Commendatore is old, wise, perfectly and permanently connected to Everything. That is why his voice seems to originate from undefined space and he himself turns up at the very beginning physically transformed.
Many opera theorists claim that Mozart's Don Giovanni is a piece of art with accurate and deep psychological elaboration of the characters. Some of them claim, despite everything, that he is the most moral character of all in this piece of art?
The difference between Don Giovanni and other characters in this opera is the following: I see him more as an entity than as a real person, while all other normal human beings are transformed into "something else" after his seduction. He has such an effect on Ego of the people he has seduced; they immediately show their natural temperament, just stronger both in the best and worst sense. Elvira is a very open, extrovert person and she presents herself in a very comical way. She always exaggerates, in jealousy, obsession, when talking about herself. She is a neurotic person. Contrary to her, Donna Anna is very closed, even emotionally and physically inhibited, blocked. She is introvert and very oriented to thinking, just as much as Elvira is impulsive. Although, she is far from a shy person: she is very determined, strong and strict, most towards herself. Don Ottavio seems to be not at all focused on the emotional dimension, although he looks pretty shy, uncertain and often hesitant. Leporello is curious and unstable. He has learned a lot from his master. His dimension is a stage as a space of the physical expression of passion and primary emotions. Zerlina and Masetto represent in the most sincere way so-called "ordinary people". Masetto knows extremely well the rules of conflict at the psychological level, even at the physical level, as well as the methods of intimidation and abuse of power; for seducing Zerlina, a simple and inexperienced neighborhood girl, Don Giovanni uses the language of a fun show on television: she then begins to dream and surrenders. Zerlina and Masetto are probably, due to their simple and sincere nature, the most active in finding the exit as well.
The title hero, the charming nobleman of high intelligence, who is at the same time one of the most famous seducers in the world history, is presented as a person who does not give up on his love endeavors even not being afraid of death. What will eventually prevail in your setting - good or evil?
After all I have said so far, it is clear that in Don Giovanni can be found the cynicism of an intellectual typical of the 18th century culture. He enjoys in exploring human behavior. His sophisticated and lucid mind examines and learns all the time how people react when under the influence of Ego. We can also consider this as a pathological type of erotic voyeurism. Don Giovanni is a serial seducer, but the purpose of his obsession is more mental than physical. The most dramatic moments of this opera represent and give the voice to "Absolute" - the seduction of Donna Anna (which is a typical mental rape), the Commendatore's death as well as the last confrontation with him...
Don Giovanni in the first scene of the second Act says: "It's all love; whoever is faithful to solely one is cruel to others; I, who bear in myself such a broad feeling, I love them all; and how women do not understand those things, they call my natural a deception". Is there love in general in nowadays world, mostly oriented towards interest?
Today, the ability to feel compassion, to feel empathy towards others, is the most important aspect of the ability to love. All the time, the characters in this opera are trying to share their own emotions (even those the strongest ones and those not talked about) with others and to encourage each other; everybody except Don Giovanni. In this we find the most prominent feature of the protagonist, his neurotic behavior manifests his inability to experience empathy towards other human beings. As if he is unable “to feel” and to be touched by something. He does not know compassion, so he seems lonely and isolated in his own frightening solitude. Can you imagine worse hell than that?
Interviewed by Mikojan Bezbradica