Don Giovanni - buffa or seria?

Started by Mystery, May 27, 2007, 01:28:15 AM

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Quote from: head-case on May 29, 2007, 02:56:03 PM
In fact, it is rubbish.

Could be. But it's not a fact, it's a personal opinion.

[....] despite the fact that virtually everyone who has heard it has hated it, from the premier to the present day.

Another fact. A historical fact, in the way it's presented. But, IMHO ;), it will be difficult to prove it. In fact ;), Tito was very popular in the late 18th century and early Romantics, because qualities like 'nobility' were very highly considered those days. And the music was not too difficult for the 'common' listener, and the opera did not last as long as almost all the other opera seria did. The classic opera seria was a dying kind of 'artefact', this is true. But Tito remained popular for a couple of decades.
(BTW: the first performance in 1791 was a disaster, because it was badly rehearsed, and because the royal couple only arrived two and a half hours after the performance was scheduled. BURN THEM! VIVE LA RÉPUBLIQUE ;))

Nowadays, I think that people who love Mozart's music enjoy the music in Tito a lot. Considering the story though, I think there is a large gap between our rather cynical times and the world of Clemenza, which makes the story difficult for us to understand. Let's just say, there is some historical distance.

But there were and there are people who feel attracted to humans like Titus, whose device was (or so they say) diem perdidi (I've lost a day), when, late in the evening, he discovered that he had not helped one single person that day. 0:)


Quote from: Wendell_E on May 29, 2007, 05:08:23 PM
Not me.  I'll take it over Mozart's other final opera [Die Zauberflöte] any day. 

Zauberflote may have a tangled plot-line which particularly falls apart after the first act, but it has many moments of transcendent beauty, including a brilliant overture and arias of great drama (O zittre nicht), touching  beauty (Dies Bildnis ist bezaubernd schön), and humor (Der Vogelfänger bin ich ja).  Many more examples can be cited.  The opening of the first act seems almost to foreshadow Wagner's music-drama.  Tito is a sequence of formulaic set-pieces.  After listening to it within the past week, I cannot bring to mind a single musical element from it.  In this case I can beleive the story that Mozart wrote it in a few days while riding in a stage coach.


Quote from: head-case on May 30, 2007, 07:41:14 AM
[....] Tito is a sequence of formulaic set-pieces.  After listening to it within the past week, I cannot bring to mind a single musical element from it. 

I prefer Die Zauberflöte, no question about that.
About Tito, I really like the Ouverture, there are some very good and attractive arias (IMO), like 'Parto, ma tu ben mio' (Sesto), 'S'altro che lagrime' (Servilia) and Vitellia's Rondo 'Non più di fiori'. I think the Finale of Act I is really great, and the Duetto 'Ah, perdona al primo affetto' (Annio, Servilia) is one my personal Mozart-favourites.

In this case I can believe the story that Mozart wrote it in a few days while riding in a stage coach.

Well, I don't believe that. He was engaged for the job around the middle of July. He had to be ready at september the 6th. Of course he was very busy with several other things, but that's no exception with Mozart :). He put aside his work at the Requiem and committed his pupil Süßmayr to compose the secco recitatives.
Sure, it was hard and fast work, but again: no exception to this man.
To me, this 'two weeks composition' story is just another 19th century legend: "Wow man, this guy must have been directly communicating with God!! Just think of it: two weeks, and at that time the man was almost practically dead!" (Another fable.)



Last post here was in 2007 !!!

Here's a thought on  Don Ottavio, often regarded rather negatively in comparison to the other roles in DG.

Dramatically and psychologically he is the exact antithesis of Don Giovanni himself: ardent but indecisive, incapable of taking action, deferent to a fault toward Anna, emotionally chained by code values such as honor, courteous love etc. In that sense he is the perfect dramatic foil to the type of manhood (brash, sex-oriented, self-serving) Giovanni impersonates. To Don Giovanni a woman is a trophy and, ultimately just another number (cf. the catalogue aria). To Don Ottavio she is an untouchable deity.

Vocally Ottavio is the pivot around which the other voices revolve: 3 soprano voices, 4 bass voices (2 in the Act 2 finale). His is the only middle voice in the ensemble textures. Therefore his every word can be heard clearly, his lines stand out like a ray of light through the clouds. Compare this to the vocal layout of Cosi fan tutte: light lyric soprano, lirico-spinto soprano, mezzo-soprano, tenor, baritone, bass: all the shades of singing voices are on display. None can be said to have a harmonic function that stands out in the ensembles - they are all equal in that regard.

I believe that an effective Ottavio must possess a distinctive tenor voice, one that is rounded, with a strong but clear emission, with no dryness, no obtrusive vibrato, no bleating. It must be plangent, ample but perfectly focused. And of course endowed with impeccable breath control and fluent coloratura. This is not an easy vocal mix to achieve. Too often the wrong kind of tenor is used: either too 'white' of voice, or with a beat, or a dryness that are uningratiating. Although german and english voices may tend to sound like that sometimes, I don't think any specific school of singing produces the right type: great Ottavios of the past include Anton Dermota, Stuart Burrows, Léopold Simoneau - all the product of different countries and schools of singing.