Monday, April 6, 2009

Don Giovanni or Leporello?

For ages the double likeness of Giovanni and Leporello was more or less set in stone: Giovanni was the archetypal man in tights, Leporello round and ruffled. Today, for all the talk of singers’ having to look their parts, the balletic physique is no longer a must, tights are pretty much out of the picture, and Giovanni can be cast as much for brawn and menace as for period elegance and charm. And servants, as in real life, come in all shapes and sizes.

In his article for the NY Times, Matthew Gurewitsch discusses the change in tradition. It started, it seems, in 1979 when Joseph Losey made a daring choice in his sinister though sumptuous movie of the opera, casting the aristocratic José van Dam, an A-list Giovanni, as Leporello, opposite the glowering Ruggero Raimondi. Yet a year later, when Sherrill Milnes, another ranking Giovanni, heard that his junior colleague Samuel Ramey was trading down to play the valet, he wondered why. Check out the article to see Mr. Date-With-The-Devil response.

[Photo: Mr. Ramey as Leporello in “Don Giovanni”. By Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera]

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