The Pains and Privileges of Staging Mozart’s ‘Don Giovanni’

When you sing the music right, Mozart is like medicine, a balm for the voice. It’s indescribably beautiful, and just so genius. But it can be deceptive. It sounds very simple and effortless, but it takes a lot of hard work to achieve that.

You have to have perfect legato, and perfect breath control, to get through a lot of long phrases. Mozart also writes runs with crazy coloratura, as well as some dramatic moments. To do all that requires secure technique. It’s very different from verismo, or Verdi. Clarity and purity: When you’re singing Mozart’s music, you have to use particular muscles to be flexible yet keep the purity of the tone. This is all a testament of healthy, and good, technique.

Mostly in the recitatives, Zerlina gets more dramatic. In the scene right before “Batti, batti,” when she goes back to Masetto after almost being seduced by Don Giovanni, she displays her capability in dealing with Masetto, saying: “What, you don’t believe me? Then kill me. Please, let’s just make peace.” It’s completely human, and so relatable. That’s another thing about these roles; you can see yourself, and you know you could be that person.

But to interpret this, you have to be faithful to what Mozart has already written. He is a great vocal composer; a lot of things are already written into the score, stressed in how the language is expressed. If you follow that, the emotions speak for themselves. So, the interpretation has to be a little more strict, but it should seem effortless.

The hard work to do that is in the preparation. You’ve got to know other people’s lines, and be aware and listen to whatever is happening around you. Once you know all that, everything is clear, and you can stop thinking too much and just enjoy being in your character. Then, the beauty of it is just so satisfying. It really is one of the greatest joys.

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