Don Giovanni Syndrome Destroys the Ecosystem – Theater

The results of the prestigious competition for teams of young opera artists have moved from 2020 to the current one. The three that faced in Graz were selected from 126 teams, so it is an honor to be in the finals, especially as they showed up in the capital of Styria to evaluate and observe young talents, the heads of the most important opera houses in Europe.

The scenery of the competition was exceptional. It is a theater founded in 1875, situated between the castle clock tower, a landmark of Graz, Austria’s second largest city – and the cathedral with the polychrome of Saint John the Baptist that has just been restored. Between the Eggenberg Palace, designed by a student of Palladio, where you can now see an exhibition on the theme of death related to epidemics – and the largest arsenal in Europe that the Austrians have created for defense against the Turks. All these themes – the passing of time, the specter of death, tools that can be used to injure and kill – coincided in Mozart’s interpretations of Don Giovanni.

Krystian Lada, Didzis Jaunzems, Natalia Kitamikado proposed in The Don Giovanni Syndrome the most modern version in terms of acting, scenography and visuals. The other two annoyed with overexpression of actors straight from old operas. The bold vision of Syndrome is also ahead of our times dominated by feminism.

The Polish director carefully analyzed the libretto, reading from it something more than what we are used to in modern interpretations: in order for Don Giovanni to abandon his chosen ones, they had to decide beforehand to betray their partners. The relationships are more complex than it initially seems, which is why Lada does not stone the main character, but shows a behind-the-scenes network of romance connections, flirting, erotic perversions, social and financial dependencies. We saw this part in the form of an abbreviation.

The finale came out intriguingly, exposing the devastation of interpersonal harmony in the form of an ecological catastrophe – the scene strewn with earth is in fact a cemetery where the loser heroes thrash around. Everybody. All misfortunes also fall upon them. Literally. However, Lada is not too sentimental: the musical effect of a falling chandelier is grotesque. Like from the thriller Tarantino. At the same time, it does not disavow the main motive: we are all equally responsible for each other, we create one human ecosystem, and the destruction of one element causes a catastrophic domino effect.

What Lada presented can be called the third wave of feminism. After men are held accountable for their chauvinism in the second stage – the first stage is the struggle for women’s rights – she calls for evaluating everyone regardless of gender.

This year’s Ring Award seems to have stopped at the second stage, under the slogan “guys are to blame for everything”. In a performance created by a German team consisting of Anika Rutkofsky, Eleni Konstantatou and Johanna Danhauser, bearing a significant subtitle “The Reckoning” – Don Giovanni falls victim to his vaginal obsession: in each woman he only sees a vagina, which is shown in one of the costumes. The commander who punished him is a woman.

It is worth mentioning that also the third team of the final – Alicia Geugelin, Christin Schumann, Pia Preuß, Elise Schobeß – in the performance “Inside Don Giovanni” went towards a more complex co-responsibility, presenting all the heroes in the same costume, which also featured the set design. It can be hoped that the one-dimensional reading of Don Giovanni as an art that moralizes in a naively school way – is a thing of the past.

Ultimately, Krystian Lada and his team took second place. He has received the Styria Region Award, but – who knows – perhaps more important was the chance to present himself to the influential opera world figures who came to Graz.

Krystian Lady’s ensemble also received invitations to make premieres at opera theaters whose directors sit on the competition jury. This is the premiere of Karol Szymanowski’s new production of King Roger at the Staatstheater Cottbus (May 14, 2022); the premiere of a new production of Vivaldi’s “Bayazet” for the Theater an der Wien (Kammeroper) in Vienna (realized in September 2020) and the premiere of a new opera pasticcio based on fragments of Verdi’s operas for the royal opera La Monnaie in Brussels (premiere in spring 2024). It will be a diptych show that takes place over two evenings and shows the generation of revolutionaries in their youth and 30 years later.

Meanwhile, the premiere of the competition arrangement of Don Giovanni will be staged in its entirety on the stage of the opera in St. Gallen in the 2023-24 season.

The final performances can be watched online on the Operavision website.

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