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The enduring influence of DON GIOVANNI

Mozart's Don Giovanni, which opens Lyric's 2014-15 season on September 27, has a long history and an even longer legacy. Read on to find out which compositions, films, and authors have been influenced by this masterful opera. 

Mozart's Don Giovanni, which opens Lyric's 2014-15 season on September 27, has a long history and an even longer legacy. Based on the Don Juan legends that date back to the early 1600s, about 150 years before Mozart's opera premiered, the opera has become an enduring cultural touchstone, perhaps because of its intoxicating mix of comedy, tragedy, and the supernatural. And did you know that famous libertine Casanova perhaps even played a small role in the composition of this piece, since he was acquainted with librettist Lorenzo da Ponte?

These tales of a serial womanizer would inspire other great works of art across the centuries, including Molière's comedy Dom Juan ou le Festin de pierre (1665), Lord Bryon's epic poem Don Juan (1821), and the recent film Don Jon (2013), which placed the lover in modern New Jersey. 

Since its premiere to rapturous reviews in Prague in 1787, Don Giovanni remains one of the most widely admired and most influential operas ever written. Playwright George Bernard Shaw deemed it "perfect." Novelist Gustave Flaubert called Don Giovanni one of "the three finest things God ever made." The other two? Hamlet and the sea. In addition to its literary influence, the musical themes woven throughout the work inspired other composers.

Franz Liszt wrote Réminiscences de Don Juan, an opera fantasy for piano, performed here by Lang Lang (who you can see in recital at Lyric on Saturday, May 9, 2015):

 

Frédéric Chopin wrote Variations on "Là ci darem la mano" for Orchestra and Piano, based on the love duet from the opera:

 

And Ludwig van Beethoven was also inspired by this famous duo, writing his own variations: 

 

And here are just a few examples of how music from the opera has been used in some more current adaptations! The composition of the opera is a pivotal moment in the Oscar-winning film by Miloš Forman, Amadeus:

 

 

It also provides the backdrop for an intense scene in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Guy Ritchie's take on the famed detective starring Robert Downey, Jr.

 

The aria that inspired Beethoven and Chopin also pops up on The Muppet Show:

 

And just for fun, here's a famous Don, Luciano Pavarotti, with an unusual Zerlina-singer-songwriter Sheryl Crow.

     

(Lyric Opera of Chicago does not own copyrights to any of the above videos.)

 

DON GIOVANNI: A Lyric Photo History

Did you know that Don Giovanni actually was Lyric Opera of Chicago's (then called the Lyric Theatre of Chicago) very first production in 1954? Here's a look at how this monumental opera has evolved throughout Lyric's history.  

Lyric's Diamond Anniversary season opens up in grand style on September 27 with a brand-new production of Mozart's Don Giovanni from the always-innovative directorial mind of Robert Falls, artistic director of Goodman Theatre. 

Did you know that Don Giovanni actually was Lyric Opera of Chicago's very first production in 1954? Here's a look at how this monumental opera has evolved over the years at Lyric. And what's in store for this year? Subscribe now to reserve your seat!

1954 

Lyric Theatre of Chicago's first season opens with Nicola Rossi-Lemeni and Eleanor Steber starring as Don Giovanni and Donna Anna in a production directed by William Wymetal and conducted by company co-founder Nicola Rescigno. Below is an ad proof from the Chicago Daily News and a costume photo of Nicola Rossi-Lemeni in character. Lyric would mount this same production with Rossi-Lemeni again in the title role in 1959, this time with Georg Solti (before he was music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra) as conductor.

1961 & 1964 

In 1961, Lyric presented a new production of the opera from director Wolfgang Weber with Peter Maag as conductor.  Eberhard Waechter starred as Don Giovanni.  Pictured below (top left) are Walter Berry as Leporello and Lisa Della Casa as Donna Elvira. The company revived the production in 1964, this time with Nicolai Ghiaurov in the title role. Shown from this production are Ghiaurnov and Nicoletta Panni as Zerlina (top right) and a wide view of the stage during Act 2, when the Commendatore (Bruno Marangoni) confronts Giovanni.

1969 

The multitalented Tito Gobbi both starred as the Don and directed this production, which featured sets and costumes by the legendary designer Peter J. Hall. In this photo, Don Giovanni (Gobbi) seduces Zerlina (Judith Raskin).

Donna Anna (Claire Watson), Don Ottavio (Alfredo Kraus), and Donna Elvira (Ilva Ligabue) in disguise during the party at Don Giovanni's house.

1980, 1988-89, & 1995-96 

In 1980, Lyric mounted a new-to-Lyric production (originally from the Salzburg Festival) by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle, one of the most celebrated directors and set designers in opera. Ponnelle wore many hats for this production as well, both directing and designing sets and costumes, characterized by their somber tone and death-haunted imagery.

The production proved to be so popular that it was revived twice: first with Samuel Ramey in the title role in the 1988-89 season, and then with James Morris as Don Giovanni and an up-and-coming Bryn Terfel as Leporello. Morris was appearing as Wotan in that same season as part of Lyric's first-ever Ring cycle.

Shown above (clockwise starting from top right) are Richard Stilwell as Don Giovanni and Stafford Dean as Leporello in the 1980 presentation; Samuel Ramey as the Don in 1988-89; Richard Stilwell's Don surrounded by his ladies of the night in 1980; Donna Elvira (Carol Vaness), Zerlina (Susanne Mentzer), Masetto (Roberto Scaltriti), Leporello (Terfel), Don Ottavio (Frank Lopardo), and Donna Anna (Luba Organasova) gesture towards the deceased Giovanni (James Morris) in 1988-89); and Leporello and Giovanni sing together (l-r Bryn Terfel and James Morris).

2004-05 

For Lyric's 50th anniversary season, Bryn Terfel returned—this time as Don Giovanni! This new Lyric Opera production from director Peter Stein featured Susan Graham in a role debut as Donna Elvira, Karita Mattila as Donna Anna (with recent Ryan Opera Center graduate Erin Wall filling in for an ill Mattila on opening night), Ildebrando D'Arcangelo as Leporello, and even a young Kyle Ketelsen as Masetto. Christoph Eschenbach made his podium debut, with Sir Andrew Davis stepping in for a few performances.  

(Clockwise from top left) - Graham as Donna Elvira; Leporello (D'Arcangelo) and Giovanni (Terfel) in the cemetery; Giovanni (Terfel) attempts to seduce Zerlina (Isabel Bayrakdarian); Leporello (D'Arcangelo), Masetto (Ketelsen), Zerlina (Bayrakdarian), Don Ottavio (Kurt Streit), Donna Anna (Mattila), and Donna Elvira (Graham) confront Giovanni (Terfel).

Photo credits:

  • 1954 - courtesy Lyric Opera of Chicago archives
  • 1961 - credit Nancy Sorenson
  • 1964 & 1969 - credit David H. Fishman
  • 1980, 1988-89 - credit Tony Romero
  • 1995-96 and 2004-05 - credit Dan Rest

 

Ryan Opera Center’s Talented Alums!

Lyric's own Ryan Opera Center  has a long roster of incredibly talented alumni. Here's what some of the singers affiliated with Lyric's prestigious training program have been up to this past season and where you can see them next season in Chicago and beyond!

The Ryan Opera Center's annual Rising Stars in Concert celebration is coming up this Saturday, March 29. It's not too late to donate $75 to Lyric and receive two complimentary tickets to this showcase of opera's future superstars.

The Ryan Opera Center has a long roster of incredibly talented alumni. Lyric's production of Mozart's La Clemenza di Tito, which closed out the 2013-14 season, is just one example. ALL of the cast members had connections to the Ryan Opera Center. Matthew Polenzani (Tito), Amanda Majeski (Vitellia), Christian van Horn (Publio), and Cecelia Hall (Annio) are all alumni of the program, and Emily Birsan (Servilia) is a current member. And Joyce DiDonato (Sesto) was just inducted as an honorary Ryan Opera Center member in a short ceremony after the Clemenza dress rehearsal.  

Here's what some of the other singers affiliated with Lyric's prestigious training program have been up to this past season and where you can see them next season in Chicago and beyond!

Elizabeth Futral 
(Ryan Opera Center member from 1989 to 1991) 

Past season   Highlights of Elizabeth's busy 2013-14 season include her role debut as Desiree Armfeldt in Houston Grand Opera's production of Sondheim's A Little Night Music , a role debut as Zdenka in Minnesota Opera's production of Strauss's Arabella, and a performance of one of her signature roles, Lucia di Lammermoor, for Portland Opera.

Coming soon! — Catch Elizabeth as Elsa Schraeder in Lyric's upcoming all-new production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's The Sound of Music  opening on April 25 right here at the beautiful Civic Opera House.   

Andriana Chuchman
(Ryan Opera Center member from 2007 to 2010)
 

Past season — Andriana had an amazing 2013-14 season. Already slated to debut with the Metropolitan Opera in February 2014 in The Enchanted Island, her debut came a month earlier as Adina in L'Elisir d'Amore when Anna Netrebko was ill for opening night. Andriana stepped in and wowed the New York critics!  

Coming soon! — Andriana is part of the amazing cast that makes up Lyric's new production of Mozart's Don Giovanni  that opens the 2014-15 season, with Robert Falls directing and Sir Andrew Davis conducting. She will also appear with Vancouver Opera in Sondheim's Sweeney Todd in April 2015.

Quinn Kelsey
(Ryan Opera Center member from 2003 to 2006)
 

Past season — Quinn made his role debut as Germont in Lyric's new production of Verdi's La Traviata in October 2013. He also performed the title role in Verdi's Rigoletto for English National Opera and in I vespri siciliani at Oper Frankfurt.

Coming soon! — Catch him at Lyric as Count di Luna in Verdi's Il Trovatore in October 2014. He will also perform as Marcello in the Metropolitan Opera's La Bohème in September 2014.  

Amber Wagner
(Ryan Opera Center member from 2007 to 2010)
 

Past season — In addition to welcoming her first child in summer 2013, Amber performed Verdi's Requiem with Sir Andrew Davis and the Melbourne Symphony in September 2013 and made her Washington National Opera debut in Verdi's La Forza del Destino in October 2013.

Coming soon! — Like Quinn Kelsey, Amber comes home to Lyric next season in Il Trovatore  as Leonora from October 27 to November 29. Then she's back just a few months later, starring in Tannhäuser  as Elisabeth from February 9 to March 6, 2015.

Amanda Majeski 
(Ryan Opera Center member from 2009 to 2011) 

Past season — Amanda was part of the dream cast of La Clemenza di Tito  that wrapped up Lyric's 2013-14 season. She also made her role debut as Donna Elvira in Mozart's Don Giovanni at Opera Philadelphia, as well as making her Carnegie Hall solo recital debut at Weill Recital Hall. 

Coming soon! — This Gurnee native will be back in her hometown to conclude another Lyric season. This time, she stars as Marta in Weinberg's The Passenger  from February 24 to March 15, 2015. She will also make her Metropolitan Opera debut as Countess Almaviva in the Met's new production of Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro in December 2014. 

Photo credits: Elizabeth Futral (credit Karli Cadel), Andriana Chuchman (credit Chia Messina), Quinn Kelsey (credit Dan Rest), Amanda Majeski (credit Dario Acosta).

Operatic Olympians

The Olympics could be seen as the opera of sports—exciting, dramatic, and full of colorful characters. In the spirit of the Sochi Olympics, we've paired some of our favorite operatic characters with their ideal winter sports.

The Olympics could be seen as the opera of sports—exciting, dramatic, and full of colorful characters. In fact, the Nancy Kerrigan-Tonya Harding  saga of 1994 has been turned into a rock opera by a company in Los Angeles.

In the spirit of the Sochi Olympics, we've paired some of our favorite operatic characters with their ideal winter sports.

Figaro_Nordic

Nordic combined - This event combines cross-country skiing with ski jumping, so it's the perfect sport for the man who can do everything, the one, the only Figaro showcased in Rossini's The Barber of Seville and Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro

Biathlon - Eugene Onegin is the obvious choice, though his accuracy with a gun might result in tragedy as often as it does a gold medal.

Adele_Slopestyle

Slopestyle - Adele from Die Fledermaus can certainly give U.S. gold medalist Jaime Anderson a run for her money. Her exuberant nature and willingness to perform makes her the perfect candidate for an event designed for show-offs.

Ladies figure skating - Pretty much any diva in opera would qualify, but we think Tosca has the perfect amount of dramatic flair and true tragedy to really sell that long program.

Don_Giovanni_skiing

Downhill skiing - Don Giovanni, with his relentless pursuit of passion, has the temperament downhill skier, who sacrifices everything in pursuit of the thrilling adrenaline rush of pure speed.  

Carmen_pairs

Pairs figure skating - Don José and Carmen are the perfect figure skating duo. He brings the passion, she brings the reckless abandon needed for the crazy lifts, throw jumps, and death spirals

Bobsled - Papageno and Tamino help save the girl in The Magic Flute, and that's exactly the kind of teamwork that's needed in the two-man bobsled.

Ice Hockey - The gypsies from Il Trovatore are a group of people not to be messed with—plus, the Anvil Chorus makes a perfect goal celebration song!

Falstaff_curling

Curling - This is probably the only Olympic sport that you can also do while drinking on the ice in your own backyard, which makes it perfect for the boisterous and often inebriated Falstaff.

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