Adrian Erod, a baritone opera and lieder singer from Austria, has done The Marriage of Figaro, and Così Fan Tutti. But he was still missing one opera from the famous trio by Wolfgang Mozart and his librettist Lorenzo da Ponte, and that was Don Giovanni (Italian for Don Juan).
On January 25 he'll be making his U.S. debut in the title role of the Houston Grand Opera production. And even though he readily concedes the Don is far from a nice man, he says that often roles like this are the most "fun" to play.
The basic story is that of a notorious womanizer who destroys marriages, uses and dumps the women he gets to go to bed with him and kills the father of a woman he is trying to seduce. He does all this with a certain amount of abandon, without a great deal of sensitivity for his loyal servant Leporello or his victims.
To get this past the censors of their day -- it was first performed in Prague in 1787 -- Mozart and da Ponte had to make sure there was a moral of the story at the end. So it's not enough that Don Giovanni gets dragged down to the bowels of hell by demons at the end (after the statue of a man comes alive and goes after him). No, all the people whose lives he's destroyed come on stage to say why he got what he deserved.
But as Erod points out quickly: "The Commendatore [the murdered father] is not a good guy either."
"Giovanni is more than a character. He's like a symbol. Everyone who comes and sees the opera has another picture already of what Don Giovanni means to him," says Erod, who has been performing mostly in Europe and Japan while doing a lot of Mozart, Rossini and Benjamin Britten.
At the end, Elvira goes off to a convent. "Elvira, who dedicated her whole life to Giovanni and tried to save him and to give him her love that he didn't actually want. So now that he's not there anymore, there's no use for her to go on and so she just leaves," Erod says. As for Donna Anna and Don Ottavio: "I'm sure they will never marry." And servant Leporello has to look for another gentleman to serve.
Despite all this, Erod insists, Don Giovanni (known for its wonderful music) is not a sad night at the opera.
"I don't think it's sad, because he got what he deserved. Even though everyone is charmed by Giovanni, everyone is left by him. He is provoking the fates in inviting the Commendatore, and killing the Commendatore at the beginning was the least thing he wanted to do.
"It starts with Donna Anna, that's the beginning of everything going absolutely in the wrong direction. I think at a certain point, Giovanni knows what this is going to go to. When he invites the statue to come to the dinner, it's, 'If it has to be, then I want it to be really grand.'"
Performances of Don Giovanni are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. January 25, February 2, 5 and 8, 2 p.m. January 27 and February 10 at the Wortham Theater Center, 501 Texas. For ticket information, go to the Houston Grand Opera Web site or call 713-228-6737. $15-$354.
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