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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

 

Cocktails and “Clemenza”

The passion, drama, and intrigue of ancient Rome awaits in Lyric's new-to-Chicago production of Mozart's La Clemenza di Tito  (on stage now through March 23). Get into the spirit with these beverages inspired by this magnificent opera.

Clemenza_Cocktails

The passion, drama, and intrigue of ancient Rome awaits in Lyric's new-to-Chicago production of Mozart's La Clemenza di Tito (on stage now through March 23). Get into the spirit with these beverages inspired by this magnificent opera.

A Dash of Betrayal

Betrayal

Vitellia and Sesto should have toasted their plan to assassinate the emperor with this blood-red delight. A sweet and spicy concoction, it perfectly captures their all-consuming passion and its tragic consequences.

  • 1 1/2 ounces jalapeño-infused tequila
  • 1/2 ounce blood orange liqueur
  • 1 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 3/4 ounce honey
  • 1/2 ounce Monin blood orange syrup

Combine ingredients in a shaker over ice, shake vigorously and strain into a chilled cocktail glass or over fresh ice in a rocks glass and garnish with a lemon twist. (Recipe from Drew Levinson, Wirtz Beverage Nevada)

Bloody Tito 

Bloody_Tito

Vitellia and Sesto were unsuccessful in their attempt to murder the emperor, but this take on the Bloody Mary reminds us of what might have been.

  • 2 ounces vodka
  • 3 ounces Clamato juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon horseradish
  • 3 to 5 dashes hot sauce
  • 3 dashes Worcestershire sauce
  • Ice
  • Pickled green beans, for garnish (optional)
  • Lemon wedge, for garnish (optional)

Combine all ingredients except ice and garnishes in a shaker, fill with ice, shake vigorously, and pour into an 8-ounce glass. If desired, garnish with pickled green beans and a lemon wedge. (Recipe from Chow.com)

Diva/Divo 

Diva_Divo

In honor of the two trouser roles in La Clemenza di Tito, excellently portrayed by Joyce DiDonato and Cecelia Hall, here's a cocktail that indulges the masculine and feminine sides of the taste spectrum with a good-quality whiskey and a slightly sweet homemade sour mix and maraschino cherries.

  • 3/4 cup whiskey
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (4 lemons)
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (4 limes)
  • 2/3 cup sugar syrup (see note)
  • Ice cubes
  • Maraschino cherries

Combine the whiskey, lemon juice, lime juice, and syrup. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice and pour in the drink mix 2/3 full. Shake for 15 seconds and pour into four glasses. Add a maraschino cherry and serve ice cold. Note: To make the sugar syrup, bring 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar to a boil, and simmer until the sugar is completely dissolved. Chill before using. (Recipe from Ina Garten at Food Network)

Negroni 

Clemenza_Chorus

All Romans love the distinctive taste of Campari, so you can channel some of the Italian spirit (and toast Emperor Titus's health) with this classic cocktail.

  • 1 ounce Campari
  • 1 ounce sweet vermouth
  • 1 ounce gin
  • Orange peel for garnish

Combine all of the ingredients in a short glass filled with ice and stir. Run the orange peel around the edge of the glass, lightly squeezing to express the oils. Drop the peel into the glass and enjoy. (Recipe from The Kitchn)

Photo credits:

  • Amanda Majeski and Joyce DiDonato in La Clemenza di Tito (photo by Todd Rosenberg / Lyric Opera of Chicago)
  • Matthew Polenzani in La Clemenza di Tito; Chorus and sets from Clemenza (photo by Todd Rosenberg / Lyric Opera of Chicago)
  • Joyce DiDonato...and Joyce DiDonato (photo copyright Nick Heavican)
  • The Lyric Opera Chorus in La Clemenza di Tito (photo by Todd Rosenberg / Lyric Opera of Chicago
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