Steals the show.
Forlo with the donna in Mozart's Don Giovanni (photo: Yossi Tzbaker)
In the novella "Laporla", one of the last that Stefan Zweig wrote on European soil, the celebrated Jewish-Austrian writer tells the story of a maid with a boring lifestyle.
The life of that unfortunate Bria changes when she starts helping the owner of the estate where she works to cheat on his wife, with several different women.
One of those lovers gives the strange maid the nickname "Laforella", as a parody of the name of Laforello, Don Giovanni's assistant from Mozart's opera.
Zweig explains that the nickname suited her by magic because, like "the servant who shares a crime... [she] felt some strange happiness mixed with pride for her master's adventures."
The readers of the story are supposed to know for themselves who this is Lafurlo, what is the "criminal thing" in which he took part, and what are the adventures of his master.
The explicit words "Don Giovanni" or even "Mozart" do not appear in Zweig's novella, which was recently translated into Hebrew by the publishing house of "Shine Souls", as part of the book "Strong Dreams".
In 1935 there was no need to explain the reference to Don Giovanni, just as in 2023 there is no need to introduce cultural heroes like Seinfeld, Beyoncé or Spider-Man.
Zweig knew his readers were familiar with Mozart's masterpiece.
He trusted them that even if they had not seen the opera with their own eyes, they at least knew the plot and the characters.
That was a total of 88 years ago, and if anyone in those days had argued that "Don Giovanni" was the perfect work of art of all time, few would have argued.
The years have changed.
The medium also.
In a world where you can witness the splendor of Picasso's "Guernica" in Madrid, see Francis Ford Coppola's "The Godfather" in the cinema or hear the "Foggy Tales" of Beehive on headphones on the bus - it's really hard to determine what the best work of art of all time is, if anything at all. such a.
And yet, if I emphatically write here that "Don Giovanni" is Mozart's greatest opera in particular, and the best opera ever composed - few would dare to argue.
There is, of course, a matter of personal taste here, but the eternity of the work cannot be disputed.
First time at the Israeli opera, but felt at home.
Don Giovanni at the Israeli Opera, 2023 (Photo: Yossi Tzvekar)
Not only is the opera still frequently performed in all the world's most important opera houses, but it still engages commentators and philosophers almost a quarter of a millennium after it was first published.
The plot of an opera rarely arouses special interest, but in the case of Mozart, and Don Giovanni in particular, the story of the profane Don Joan invites a modern, not to say progressive, reading of the old work.
Is Don Giovanni a complex ladies man?
Maybe just a rapist or at least a serial sexual harasser?
These questions, which have been asked for centuries, only add interest and mystery to the engrossing story of de Ponte's libretto, with the music of the greatest composer ever in the background.
Yes, another firm statement.
You can argue about it, but it's better to just devote yourself to the music.
The Israel Opera is currently staging the Danish director Kasper Holten's version of Mozart's timeless opera (Regina Alexandrovskaya is responsible for the new direction), after having already successfully staged the same production in 2018.
This is a very rare case of "a winning horse is not replaced".
This is a production that touches on perfection.
Three and a quarter hours fly by.
The kind of productions that pay respect to a very popular and well-known work on the one hand, and on the other hand feel as if it will speak to an audience born in the 21st century just as it worked on the audience in the 17th century.
It is as rare as it is beautiful.
The opera orchestra has not sounded so precise for a long time as it did under the faithful hands of Karl Heinz Steffens.
It may be that Mozart's very stamp on the notes jumps everyone's concentration and commitment one level higher, and in any case already in the familiar overture the chills slowly passed from the pit of the orchestra to all the occupants of the opera house.
The opening scene, which finds Don Giovanni, played by Argentinian German Enrique Alcantara, allegedly raping Donna Ana (Iulia Maria Dan Romania), already throws us deep into Holten's version.
The familiar music in the background is Mozart, but the visuals are of a dark musical, which sends its arms out to the spectators and swallows them inside.
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The setting and lighting are an inseparable part of the production.
Don Giovanni at the opera (Photo: Yossi Tsvkar)
We will not go into Mozart's treatment of women in his operas again, and not only because whole books could be written about interpretations of the matter, but mainly because Holten's production takes the same era-appropriate misogyny to the extreme.
Giovanni's dons are weak, promiscuous and untrustworthy women, while Tsarina turns from an innocent village girl into a sophisticated seductress.
If in the original libretto it was possible to identify a big question mark about the sexual meeting between Don Giovanni and Donna Anna - in Holten the answer is much more unequivocal.
Was it rape?
Did she seduce him?
Did he impersonate someone else?
Did she set a trap for him?
Everything was consensual and she regretted it?
For Holten, the answer is the same: it doesn't matter at all.
Life is at least as complex as Mozart's music, and those looking for a schematic separation between black and white or good and bad should go watch "The Lord of the Rings" with Simcha Rothman.
Those who want to experience life itself, which includes love and pain alongside passion and betrayal - should join the most perfect operatic journey of all.
Don Giovanni is the perfect anti-hero.
Early version by Tony Soprano, Don Draper and Bojack Horsman.
Mozart turned this controversial figure into a round one, Holten actually flattens it - in a good part - and reminds us that the bottom line is that this is a man's shit.
That doesn't mean we can't love him and be attracted to him.
This is the essence of all humanity, and what makes this work eternal.
Another reason for the eternal nature of the work is the character of Laforello, who begins his journey in the opera as a comedic athanasius and slowly builds himself up as the human hero of the entire drama.
The Italian baritone Paolo Bordonia stepped into the shoes of the legendary Leporello, and already in his premiere at the local opera house he conquered the original audience.
It seems that since then Anthony Parker has not landed in Tel Aviv, a "purchased actor" and already in his debut he looks like he belongs there.
No longer a "promise" but a blue and white diva.
Daniela Skorka in Don Giovanni (Photo: Yossi Tzbaker)
Compliments also go to the Chinese tenor Long Long, in the role of Don Otavio, who presented a perfect vocal performance - almost without effort (or at least without showing effort).
On the other hand, Long does seem a bit too tough for the role, without much natural talent for drama.
If it were a concert performance of the opera, Long would perhaps stand out above everyone else - but in the midst of a busy theatrical opera production, he got a little lost.
An amiable performance was also recorded in the premiere by the Israeli Noam Heinz, in the role of Zeto, Tsarina's new husband.
This is the first time I've seen the young baritone in an opera on the scale of Don Giovanni (I've seen him before in the children's opera version of Alice in Wonderland), and despite the relatively small role it was hard to ignore the potential.
As usual, it's fun to see young Israelis coming to the opera stage - it will be interesting to see Heinz's powerful baritone in the lead role of Don Giovanni.
It's likely only a matter of time.
By the way young Israelis, Daniel Skorka is no longer a "potential" or "promise" but a blue and white diva.
The Israeli soprano returns to the role of Tsarina, which she played in 2018 at the same time as Anat Charney - and this time she brings, beyond her great voice, also confidence and maturity that makes the "innocent" character one of the strongest and sexiest in the entire opera.
Turn the slyzes into beauty.
The amazing setting of Don Giovanni (photo: Yossi Tzbaker)
All this before we talked about the set design of Ace Dublin and the lighting design of Bruno Puet (and the redesign of Eyal Levy Sharon) which play a significant role in the production no less than the vocalists themselves.
The games of light and letters that seem to be taken from the obscene notebook in which Don Giovanni records his conquests turn the Silesia into beauty.
the darkness to the light.
The audience of the opera may have started the evening with natural comparisons to the previous visit of the current production at the opera, conducted by Daniel Oren - but at the end of the evening everyone agreed: it is about the splendor of the work that is worth coming back and experiencing once every five years.
maybe even less.
Let's hope that the next time we see Mozart, or any other eternal composer at the opera, we won't have to start the evening with a projection of the Declaration of Independence on the big screen of the opera house.
Let's hope that politics stays out, and music - like democracy - wins.
The Israeli Opera