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Mozart's Casanova: The Giacomo Variations / Malkovich, Dapkunaite [DVD]

Album Summary

>Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus : Work(s)
Performers Conductor Ensemble Composer

Notes & Reviews:

Giacomo Casanova received a doctorate as jurist, scratched along as violinist in a theatre, dabbled in the role of a lieutenant and was cofounder of France's lottery. As an adventurer and due to his reputation as lover of innumerable women and globetrotter, he became world famous. His memoirs from 1790, &dbquo;Histoire de ma vie", fascinate to date, and declare Casanova as symbol for the art of seduction! Michael Sturminger and Martin Haselböck adapt Casanova's themes and create with their new chamber-opera play "The Giacomo-Variations" a dramatic and humorous rapprochement to a phenomenon. We meet Casanova - alternately played by Hollywood star John Malkovich and baritone Florian Boesch - in various exciting encounters, and are witness to his very personal retrospection on his life in the face of his approaching death. Somewhere in the midst of these encounters, bursting with desire and passion for numerous women, Casanova has to confront his biggest fear: to die, before discovering what he has lived for. The &dbquo;Soundtrack" for this exceptional play of human feelings is provided by Casanova's contemporaries W.A. Mozart und Lorenzo Da Ponte, drawing on some of the most beautiful arias from their operatic collaborations.

Notes & Reviews:

Run Time: 173 min.
Region: All
Picture Format: NTSC, 16:9, Color
Sound Format(s): LPCM Stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English, German, French, Spanish, Italian


Interesting concept; unusual theatre
Giacomo Casanova (just "Casanova" has almost become an adjective of its own) was reputedly among the most shameless womanizers and personal egos of the late eighteenth century's Venice. He also had substantial financial, political and social connections. Mozart's three operas set to libretti by Lorenzo Da Ponte are generally considered his most "bawdy" built on themes of deception, adultery, mistaken identity, coverups and so forth. Certainly, "Cosi fan tutti", "The Marriage of Figaro" and "Don Giovanni" were all considered quite racy and almost unfit topics for opera by the aristocracy if not the common audience member of the time. This new play with opera - or is it vice versa? - "The Giacomo Variations" by German director, Michael Sturminger, takes a factual circumstance and turns it into a fascinating theatre experience. Casanova met Mozart and Da Ponte during a 1783 job trip to Venice and is also said to have attended the Prague premiere of "Don Giovanni" - a character that Casanova admits he related to! The premise of "The Giacomo Variations" is a fairly simple one - an aging Casanova is trying to solicit the help of the German poet, Elisa van der Recke, in publishing his memoirs. Along the way, Casanova's life and ideologies are played out - sometimes to a younger version of himself - through scenes from the three Mozart-Da Ponte operas. The theatre experience is very well done, the concept clever and the performances are generally very solid. The great John Malkovich has a propensity for the very unusual and he brings off Casanova convincingly; in this case an interesting blend of egotist, romantically insatiable but also a bit paranoid and unsure. The other leading parts are well done as well, especially Ingaborga Dapkunaite as Elisa (and in multiple operatic roles), as well as Florian Boesch and Sophie Klussmann in similar, multiple parts. The Orchestra Wiener Akademie under the direction of Martin Hasselbock is in fine form, playing on authentic instruments. Just from the standpoint of opera; even selections from Mozart's hits, this is not intended as a benchmark performance, although the singers do a fine job. The reason to see "The Giacomo Variations" is to enjoy the dry wit, the bland 'sleaziness' and the trademark wonderful expressions that John Malkovich brings to this - and every - performance. Along the way, you will hear and probably enjoy some of Mozart's best known scenes and arias along the common theme of what motivates people. I do think that fans of Malkovich and people who do know Mozart would enjoy this very unusual, but creative, theatre experience.
Submitted on 07/06/11 by Dan Coombs 
Fascinating and incredible – Malkovich is splendid!
This DVD is features John Malkovich as Mozart’s Casanova. That sounds simple enough on the surface. But what we have here is a combination of acting (and what an amazing performance from Mr. Malkovich), music from Mozart’s Figaro, Don Giovanni, and Cosi Fan Tutte, beautiful costumes, and a story that ranges from the comic to the subtle, from emotional hunger to basal lust. Prior to getting this video, I did not know that the infamous Casanova actually knew Mozart and his librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte, and that Casanove himself might well have been the inspiration for some of the characterizations present in some of the operas previously mentioned.

The production alternates between the actors performances, well done exchanges between the actors and the opera singers (Sophie Klubmann is *wonderful*) so that the music from the various operas can be sung in the proper context of the piece, and back again. Mr. Malkovich even sings a piece near the end as best he can – and even though his voice is certainly not of operatic quality, the genuine nature of what he wants to convey comes right through. His performance is such that this viewer actually felt sorry for Casanova at several points in the piece, which is not what I expected. This is lyrical theater of a sort that I had not seen before, and it is very special…a treat for the eyes, ears, and the mind.

This is a fascinating and incredible work, and certainly worth the price. Very highly recommended!

Submitted on 02/18/13 by KlingonOpera 
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Works Details

>Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus : Work(s)
  • Performers: Florian Boesch (Voice); Ingeborga Dapkunaite (Voice); Sophie Klussman (Voice); John Malkovich (Voice)
  • Conductor: Martin Haselböck
  • Ensemble: Vienna Academy Orchestra
  • Period Time: Classical