FESTIVAL D’AIX-EN-PROVENCE 2017: A DEEPLY HUMAN DON GIOVANNI
In Don Giovanni, the countdown starts with the very first chords of the Overture and sweeps us inexorably in a very precise trajectory all the way to the final drama. Hence we actually begin with the judgment, the denouement of the work, something quite unique in opera. The elements of humour and the supernatural articulate this trajectory and also impose a structure on the conductor, who must not miss the energy points that reveal the perfect mechanism created by Mozart. Mozart uses Don Giovanni as a dramatic catalyst. He makes him reveal the workings of the characters he meets, and the entire drama is played out in their reactions to him. Giovanni disorganises emotions, breaks down his interlocutors and, helped by the music, creates humanity, arouses empathy or disgust. Hateful though he is, he pushes back limits in a way that we would not dare, fascinating both the other characters and the audience. The sense of dramaturgy in Mozart often lies at the heart of the score; the musical language characterises the situations and the psychology of the protagonists. One feels this in the very rich harmonies he creates for the complex characters and, on the contrary, the simpler language he assigns to the characters of more popular origins, a simplicity that encourages audience empathy. To play this music on period instruments, one of the fundamental tenets of Le Cercle de l’Harmonie, clearly allows us to get closer to the texture for which Mozart composed his work. In the eighteenth century, composers wrote for singers they knew, for musicians and instruments that constituted the sound world within and for which they were writing. Similarly, the balance between voice and orchestra was more natural and, since there was no need to dominate the orchestra, it was possible to use singers who had the physical attributes of the role and thereby make the musical dramaturgy more spontaneous and natural. Don Giovanni evokes for me humanity’s challenge to God, to its existence and to the supernatural elements, and Mozart seems to me essentially filled with a deep and radiant empathy for the human race. And it is that same empathy for his characters that allows us to understand his preoccupations. The drama already present in the Overture to Don Giovanni quickly dissolves into a luminous world that enables the drama itself to be regenerated, and there lies its supreme inspiration drama itself to be regenerated, and there lies its supreme inspiration.