Don Giovanni | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Don Giovanni 

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Freud meets Marx in this clever 1979 adaptation by Joseph Losey of Mozart's operatic masterpiece. Don Giovanni, as portrayed by the scowling baritone Ruggero Raimondi, is a cynical and cruel yet oddly vulnerable bisexual who no longer gets a kick out of his compulsive behavior; the aristocratic milieu that is his hunting ground is suffering from ennui too, as its impeccably coiffured players go through the motions in their elegant Palladian villas. The only respite from the morbid, oppressive languor--for both Giovanni and the audience--comes when the action shifts to the servants' quarters, where the seducer tries to win over Zerlina (Teresa Berganza). Losey, a longtime socialist who was blacklisted during the McCarthy era, shows both fascination with and repulsion for the menagerie of idle nobles: Donna Anna (Edda Moser) comes across as a cunning hussy, her suitor Don Ottavio (Kenneth Riegel) as a glutton for humiliation. Leporello (in a memorable performance by Jose van Dam) is a corporate middle manager who succumbs to Giovanni in spite of himself. Only Donna Elvira (Kiri Te Kanawa) emerges as sympathetic, for her obsessive attempt to reform Giovanni--and ultimately it's only the servant Zerlina and her betrothed who seem in command of their destiny. Shot in Italy with most dialogue recorded live, Losey's production is far more cinematic and authentic looking than most operas on film, and Frantz Salieri's set design emphasizes the contrast between the severe colors and silhouettes of late-18th-century interiors and the vibrant, earthy tones of the countryside. The singing, of course, is top-notch. Lorin Maazel conducts the Paris Opera Orchestra and Chorus, whose legendary director Rolf Liebermann originally pitched the project to Losey. Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Saturday, May 28, 7:00, and Sunday, May 29, 4:00, 443-3737.

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