Thursday, October 13, 2005

Don Juan Tenorio

Don Juan, an unrepentant sex-addict...

"Don Giovanni"s production at the Teatro Real ( Act I, Scene IV) Posted by Picasa

The Mibel Expert, a charming inhabitant of the diplomatic offices at Calle Pinar, 1, took the trouble to purchase the tickets from the Teatro Real website. Off we went, through successive check-points manned by fluorescent-jacketed traffic wardens (called here, very post-modernly "agentes de movilidad") who try to prevent everybody driving his own private car from getting near the Opera house.

Seeing "Don Giovanni" in Spain, with a Spanish director, is an interesting addition to the curriculum of a Mozart/Da Ponte groupie ( one should say Mozart/Da Ponte the way one says Lennon/McCartney or Gilbert/O'Sullivan). As the Honourable Reader knows very well and will probably resent to be told as if He was an ignoramus, the character of Don Giovanni stems from a creation of Tirso de Molina, a Spaniard, about a century earlier. So drinking D. Juan Tenorio in their breast milk, like Spaniards do, would legitimize, so to speak, a preferential insight into Don Giovanni's psyche. Was that so? Not sure.

You need to have a special insight to read the mind of such a overwhelming FB ('fucking bastard', for those of you, poor prudes, not knowing the acronym) as D. Juan. One is tempted to say that one would have to be either Mr DaPonte himself (a leacherous, lewd man who wrote the libretto, among other jobs he was working on in parallel, day and night "diverted only by Tokay, snuff, coffee, and a nubile 16 year-old" ); or a successful dashing-looking baritone who has performed many times that demanding role to generalized acclaim, like Mr Rodney Gilfry; or a man who had been there, indulging in serial seducing, as with a kind of unquenchable thirst for passionate love, like Mr Giacomo Casanova (or, some might say, this very blogger of yours, which I rush to disclaim as false, calumnious and actionable in Justice).

Let's cut the crap, as they say in B-movies, with heavy New Jersey accent. There are only two things that justify our obsession with "Don Giovanni" the opera, and neither of them is the mere enjoyment of great music. One, to confront an FB in its pure state, to stare at that terminal polygamous hyper-eroticism and take little personal notes; two, to try to make something out of the dinner-party where the (Statue of the) Commendattore turns from Guest to Host. (About this latter, near- metaphysical, issue I'll blog about separately)

To address the FB issue first: I think Gilfry got it absolutely spot on. Don Giovanni is a bad boy, a spoilt brat that has never stopped a second to consider that there might be red lines in one's behavior. He has an addictive personality (he would be heavily into crack, horse or GHB if he was living in this day and age) and he gets his adrenalin rushes, his kicks, out of sexual humiliation of women. He enjoys sex alright, but in his refined taste as a Gentilluomo what he really craves for is surrender. After a while, blasé, only the ultimate kick, playing with death itself, can make his blood levels reach the needed dosis. He's prepared to do almost anything once he senses that there's a more rare and exquisite sensation on offer. The Commendattore's resurrected self carries a invitation to rub shoulders with Death Herself, the ultimate lover. Drug-taking and death-wish, so Kurt Cobhamian, no? So, Jim Morrisonesque, so JamesDeany...…

But, Ladies and Gentlemen, (in particular Ladies) , Don Juan is not a man who loves women, let's be crystal clear about it. He loves himself (as a matter of fact I don't think he ever stops to meditate in such deep thoughts as to whether he could theorize about emotions, affections and sex, and get some self-awareness from that: he, to put it simply, doesn't do Freud); he lets his dick do all the talking and all the action too. Now, that last feature can be extremely and very powerfuly endearing to women, who time and again, would rather be Queens for an hour (with plenty of fluid-exchanging taking place) than Duchesses all their lifes. But Don Juan/Don Giovanni has no redeeming features. He is no Valmont (who dies not out of arrogance but of romantic will to be redeemed by one noble gesture stemming from his love towards Mme de Torvelle). He is no, definitely not, no Casanova (no Henriette that could have redeemed him and Elvira was condemned to failure).

In fact, Don Juan is a shame for our profession. Those of us who have kept our hearts pumping with the sense that a new passion could be on the way; those of us who felt the pain of un-reciprocated love but still persevere; those of us who delude themselves by being sure each time that this last young soul might be the one - we do not recognize ourselves in Don Giovanni. A collector of sexual experiences is not one of us, I hope I made myself clear.

Casanova is not a choir boy, for sure, and he has the masculine arrogance, mixed with sexual charism, that made him write these words, in his The History of My Life:

" The man who loves and knows that he is loved rates the pleasure he is sure he will give the loved object more highly than the pleasure which that object can give him in fruition. Hence he is eager to satisfy her. Woman, whose great preoccupation is her own interest, cannot but rate the pleasure she will herself feel more highly than the pleasure she will give; hence she procrastinates as long as she can because she fears that in giving herself she will loose what concerns her most - her own pleasure".

Why am I saying all this, the Honourable Reader might ask, already with signs of hyperventilation and close to exasperation? Because people, in particular women scorned in their desires, tend to amalgamate Don Juan and Casanova, and pretend it's all the same. It's not. Don Juan is the mirror at which unhappy women look, with faces turned ugly by love-pain, and find themselves beautiful. Very quickly it becomes easy to leap from Don Juan/Lovelace/FB seducer to Casanova/Their own lost lover and from there to All-Men-Are-The-Same.

That's why I believe the Program and leaflets of a Don Giovanni production should carry a kind of Health Warning: "Take Don Juan as the paradigm of What-Men-Really-Are-Given-The-Chance at your own risk".…

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