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Timeless classic
Updated: 2018-11-26 07:33:23
( China Daily )

The NCPA production of Don Giovanni is due to start from Tuesday in Beijing. [Photo provided to China Daily]

NCPA set to thrill fans with Mozart's Don Giovanni, Cheng Yuezhu reports.

After producing Die Zauberflote in 2009 and Le nozze di Figaro in 2016, the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing is staging another of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's timeless classical operas, Don Giovanni, from Tuesday to Saturday.

Many literary and theater works have been written based on the story of the libertine Don Giovanni, or Don Juan, in the past 400 years. But the two-act opera by Mozart and librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte is arguably the most renowned.

Speaking about the upcoming production, Zhao Tiechun, the vice-president of the NCPA, says: "We decided to present the abstruse Don Giovanni to the audience, only after introducing them to Mozart's operas with The Magic Flute and The Marriage of Figaro, as part of a methodologically arranged repertoire plan."

According to Zhao, Don Giovanni, with its long recitatives, complicated plot, intricate character relationships, and frequent changes of scenes, might be slightly difficult for the audience to comprehend.

Meanwhile, Yannis Kokkos, a Greek stage director who directed the opera Lucia di Lammermoor by Gaetano Donizetti at the NCPA in 2017, again take the helm as the director, set designer and costume designer.

Speaking about his latest assignment, Kokkos, who has won the Laurence Olivier and Moliere awards, says: "We want to make all the elements immediately understood, even by first-time viewers," while explaining the difficulty in doing so because the character of Don Giovanni is complicated.

Director, set designer and costume designer Yannis Kokkos (right) instructs the opera singers during a rehearsal. [Photo provided to China Daily]

"Don Giovanni is a very mysterious and disturbed person. No one really understands what he thinks. He is really a person who has in him the sense of living in the moment. He has no past, no future, just the pleasure of the moment." Kokkos says.

Separately, the NCPA, as previous productions go, uses two sets of cast, one international and one Chinese, for the opera.

Don Giovanni in the international cast is played by the Italian baritone Vittorio Prato.

Speaking about the character, he echoes Kokkos, saying: "To me, he (Don Giovanni) is not only a seducer, but a symbol of men who enjoy life and satisfy their own desire and ego. He doesn't follow convention, and I believe that's why many people are attracted to this character."

For the Chinese cast, Don Giovanni is played by Zhang Yang, a NCPA resident opera singer. After being assigned the role, Zhang declined almost all of his other performance opportunities in the past half year.

"This is the character for whom I have devoted the most effort. It is quite challenging, as I am required to sing almost from the very beginning to the end. And because of the charming appearance of this character, I have lost about 9 kilograms," Zhang says.

"The deeper I get to know the libretto, the greater Mozart seems to me. I want to present my best performance and give my full cooperation to the director and the crew." Zhang adds.

Speaking about his job of directing the cast members, Kokkos says: "It's very interesting for me to direct two sets of people in realizing the same vision, the same dream."

As for the music, this production features the original Viennese version score published by the Barenreiter publishing house, and will be performed by the NCPA Orchestra under the baton of Lyu Jia, the artistic director of music at the NCPA.

Italian baritone Vittorio Prato (right) plays the role of Don Giovanni in the international cast. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Commenting on the music, Lyu says: "This opera written in Italian really is the pinnacle of Mozart's opera works. It is a perfect combination of music, drama, stage and dialogue, and portrays every character in a vivid way. Many of today's opera works cannot meet this standard.

"I believe the challenge really lies in how to present the characters' psyche and manage the entire stage."

Kokkos concurs, saying that Don Giovanni was an avantgarde work at its time. And he intends to balance the elements of comedy and tragedy, and maximize the dramatic effect of the opera, via his modest yet richly illustrative stage design.

"We want to present the opera like a fantasy by constructing a modern and complex view of the space, with many metaphoric and spiritual ideas," Kokkos says.

Contact the writer at chengyuezhu@chinadaily.com.cn

If you go

7:00 pm, Nov 27-Dec 1. NCPA, No 2 West Chang'an Avenue, Xicheng district, Beijing. 010-6655-0000

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