USCB presents Mozart’s ‘unequaled and immortal masterpiece’

4 mins read

By Alan Schuster

Mozart’s “Don Giovanni,” which is being performed at 12:55 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 12, at the USCB Center for the Arts, is regarded by many as the greatest opera ever written and is a showcase for gifted singers.

For the Met’s HD performance, British baritone Simon Keenlyside, in the title role, leads a charismatic team in an irresistibly comic and tragically serious masterpiece.

The Met describes its production of the final moments as the one in which Giovanni “goes to hell in a dazzling coup de theatre.”

Among Mozart’s adherents, three great composers had this to say about the opera. Charles Gounod: “An unequaled and immortal masterpiece. The score has exercised an influence upon the whole of my life.”  Richard Wagner: “Is it possible to find anything more perfect than every piece in Don Giovanni?”  Giacomo Rossini, after seeing a Mozart-autographed score for the first time: “I want to bow the knee before this sacred relic.”

There was even a royal reaction from Austrian Emperor Joseph II in 1787. After seeing the opera which Mozart attended, Joseph commented to him that “the opera is divine. But such music is not meant for the teeth of my Viennese.”  To which Mozart calmly responded, “Give them some time to chew on it.”

And finally, when his publisher warned him to incline toward a less dramatic style or risk losing his audience, he replied that he had only composed it “for myself and a few friends.”

Based on the legendary fictional character named Don Juan, aka a “womanizer,” the opera begins at night near Seville when Don Giovanni is seducing a woman named Donna Anna while his servant, Leporello, waits outside.

An altercation occurs and Anna enters with her anguished father, the Commandant. Giovanni kills him in a duel, and then escapes with Leporello. Soon, they’re confronted on a dark street by Donna Elvira, a distraught victim, and Giovanni escapes once again.

The action now moves to a country spot where villagers are celebrating the upcoming marriage of Zerlina and Masetto. Giovanni sees Zerlina and invites everyone to his castle, his motive being to then seduce her.

With the party underway, Giovanni spots three masked strangers from a window and invites them to join. They are Elvira, Anna and her fiancee, Don Ottavio.

Once inside, Anna recognizes Giovanni’s voice as her father’s murderer as he is attempting to seduce Zerlina. This time, Giovanni blames poor Leporello for all wrongdoings.

After many dramatic developments, a man in stone appears at Giovanni’s castle. Leporello is terrified, but Giovanni invites him – the ghost of the Commandant – to join him for dinner. The statue accepts and, in return, extends a similar invitation to Giovanni. He agrees and they shake hands, whereupon the statue demands that he repent his sins. Giovanni refuses, and a fiery pit opens and engulfs him in flames.

Joining Keenlyside will be Adam Plachetka in the role of Leporello, Giovanni’s sidekick. Sopranos Hibla Gerzmava and Malin Bystrom appear as two of his unrepentant seductions. Paul Appleby sings Ottavio; Serena Malfi is Zerlina; and Matthew Rose is Masetto. Met favorite Fabio Luisi conducts.

If you go

Tickets for all operas are now available. All seats are general admission. Tickets are $20 for adults; $18 for OLLI members; and $10 for students. Order online at www.centerforthearts.com, or call 843-521-4145.

The box office opens at noon. The USCB Center for the Arts is at 801 Carteret St., Beaufort.

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