Placido Domingo moved by Mozart's original score

The score is on display to the public and Don Giovanni will be shown on a big screen

As part of the celebration of the 230th anniversary of the premiere of Mozart's Don Giovanni in Prague, the original score in Mozart's handwriting will be on display at the Estates Theatre until Oct. 30.

Opera star Placido Domingo is conducting two performances of Don Giovanni at the Estates Theatre on Oct. 27 and 29, and while those black-tie events are sold out, the opera will be shown live on a large screen in the plaza behind the National Theatre, náměstí Václava Havla, on Oct. 29 at 7 pm.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart conducted the world premiere of Don Giovanni at the Estates Theatre on Oct. 29, 1787. The Estates Theatre is the only one left in the world where Mozart conducted.

The production is based on a 1969 staging with a famous set by designer Josef Svoboda. This production will use costumes by Oscar-winner Theodor Pištěk, who worked on Miloš Forman's 1984 film Amadeus. Simone Alberghini will play Don Giovanni and Czech opera star Kateřina Kněžíková will play Donna Elvira.

“The time is arriving. We have been dreaming with this Don Giovanni … several years,” Domingo said at a press conference in the Estates Theatre. “It is a very emotional feeling to be able to conduct Mozart's masterpiece, Don Giovanni. We can think that Mozart was right here,” he said. “Probably they had fewer rehearsals than we are having. Probably he was continually writing the music with [Lorenzo Da] Ponte. So this is an amazing thing,” he said.

“Just to work in this theater is very emotional,” he said, adding that he had been in the orchestra pit where Mozart stood.

He said he would like to see the celebration of the premiere of Don Giovanni with a special staging become an annual event.

Domingo had a surprise at the press conference. He was not expecting to be able to handle the original bound manuscript of Don Giovanni, on loan from the Prague Conservatory. He became quite emotional as he examined. “Here are some cuts,” he said, pointing to crossed out pages. Briefly, he sang a short passage. After looking at the manuscript he signed a ledger with his thoughts on the experience.

He praised the National Theatre's orchestra, saying his first contact with the orchestra was sensational. “There were some passages they were playing with so much virtuosity. I told them it was difficult to find orchestras who will play it as beautifully. … The quality was extraordinary.”

Domingo said that staging Don Giovanni was an obvious choice due to the anniversary, but he was also attracted by the city. “The idea was also Prague. Prague has so much. Culture,” he said. That is the reason he is making a video of the performance. The video will also include the culture of the city with nods to Franz Kafka and Alfons Mucha. Domingo likes the contrast between the bright and optimistic work of Mucha and the darker themes of Kafka.

“It is such an extraordinary cultural world that you have,” he said. “We are trying to do a video so that the world around will know more about Prague.” He said people know the names of some of the artists but they don't know the work. “We want to talk about Smetana, Janáček, and Dvořák.”

He also is hoping to come back to Prague to sing in an opera as so far he has only done concerts. But he no longer sings as a tenor. Voices get deeper as singers age. He would look for a baritone role. “I am quite sorry I was never able to come when I was singing my repertoire as a tenor,” he said. He mentioned Macbeth and Nabucco as baritone roles he enjoys. “There are many but we will have to see what the repertoire is here and see if there is one of my favorite ones,” he said, adding that it has been eight years that he has been singing baritone roles. He began his career as a tenor at the age of 16 in 1957.

“I think the best role for me would be either [Simon] Boccanegra, I due Foscari or Macbeth. … I wish I could still sing Mozart,” he said, recounting the roles he used to sing as a tenor. “I just want to find the right opera. I would like to be on the stage doing an opera. I live on the stage. It is nice to do concerts, but, let's see. I think we will find something,” he said.

While he was resting between rehearsals he said he intended to see some of the opera productions at the National Theatre.

Related articles:
Plácido Domingo to conduct Don Giovanni for its 230th anniversary (Prague.TV, 19.10.2017)
Plácido Domingo will conduct Don Giovanni (Prague.TV, 30.01.2017)

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