Lyric Notes recently checked in with barihunk* Mariusz Kwiecień, who’s summering in his native Krakow, Poland. He’ll open Lyric’s 60th season in the title role of Don Giovanni (aka DG) in a bold new production by Robert Falls.
You’ve sung professionally for 21 years – how old were you for your first DG?
I was 29, performing in Tokyo in 2002. Seiji Ozawa conducted – I was very lucky to have such a great maestro for my debut in that difficult role.
How have your feelings and understanding of the Don changed over the years?
I’ve sung 18 different productions – my DG now and 12 years ago are two completely different characters. In the beginning I thought he’s an energetic, passionate, arrogant, self-centered young character. Now I see deep pain and unhappiness in him. I have no doubts he is burned out as a person and is looking for something new – something that will give him unexplored experience, some kind of help and destruction in the same time: death.
What’s the Don’s backstory? What makes him “that guy”?
He knows what was given to him by nature. In the beginning his energy, looks, passion, ability to give pleasure to anybody without any effort made him a perfect lover-predator who could have whatever and whoever he desired. Later, his knowledge, experience, and routine made him the most desired guy in society. The same desire that made him the best seducer took him down to hell.
What accounts for the enduring appeal of the Don Juan legend? What do women – and men – love about this unrepentant bad boy?
People love unusual, strong, successful characters. He was a tiger who you could hug, tickle, and feel safe and warm with. He was an angel who could make love with you and take your heart and soul to the gardens of Eden. He had no fear and great determination to get what he wanted. These kinds of personalities are always admired by others.
What contemporary TV or movie character is closest to DG?
Many of them are dead – Michael Jackson, Heath Ledger, Amy Winehouse. I think we have living ones as well – Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Mick Jagger.
If you were telling someone with no knowledge of the character and his history, or Mozart’s music, what would you say to hook him?
The most simple, romantic, poetic, and lovable things that come in our lives you can find in Mozart's music. If you are not familiar with opera at all, Mozart is the first thing you should see. Always fresh, a little funny, delicate and seductive. Every character is full of colors and dimensions. Don Giovanni is my favorite, but we cannot forget about The Marriage of Figaro or Così fan tutte. For me these are the greatest combinations of beautiful music and intelligent theater.