a Trilogy made in Heaven...
The most ridiculous thing about the opera “Don Giovanni” is, of course, the sugary moralizing epilogue just after the dramatic scene when the great seducer goes to Hell.
Many intelligent conductors did the right thing and ended their live performances at that sulphurous point, including Mahler himself when he was the Director of the Vienna Symphonic Orchestra, but unfortunately it's no longer the case.
What makes that final scene between Don Giovanni and the Commendatore’s Statue one of the most dramatic climaxes of all the opera repertoire? Metaphysics, I should say. Not only because of what’s at stake phylosophical or theologicaly speaking, but because the genius of Mozart made sure we understood with our senses that there is something transcendental happening ..
As the Honourable Reader might recall, our hero is at that moment in something akin to the very last crossroads. He has lived in full a life in which he had “denied God, mocked religion, deflowered innumerable women and knowingly pursued a path of unremitting wickedness”. He still gets his chance to save his soul. He is asked to repent. He refuses. He makes a choice, a free choice. Not the atheist’s choice of someone who has yet to be convinced that God exists. No, he had just sensed the strange horrifying coldness of the Statue and then, after his first refusal, he has started to feel the pain and the heat of Hell itself . He had just been given the proof that God and Satan are disputing his soul. But then again, he rejects God. He refuses to come over to God’s side. He chooses, we are led to realize, the Forces of Darkness.
The idea that he had been working for Evil and that both his inclinations and pride have prevented him from saving his soul, even as the evidence of what would follow could not be made more clear, are terrible to contemplate. Only with the help of Mozart’s music we can sail through it relatively undamaged.
For some, that defiance, that measuring up to God Himself, is the heroic defining moment of Man on Earth, finally empowered and able to fly away from the nest without the mothering care of God.
I think that it’s of the utmost bad taste to turn an horrible unsavoury character into a revolutionary icon.