Mozart’s Don Giovanni
Peter Mattei, Malin Byström, Andrew Staples and other world-famous soloists join the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra and members of the Swedish Radio Choir in Berwaldhallen in this unique staging of Mozart’s famous opera. Don Giovanni is a beloved staple of the operatic repertoire that has inspired generations of composers, writers and philosophers. The opera’s light-hearted elements are tempered by sorrow, drama and – in the unforgettable finale – supernatural horror.
“In this staging of Don Giovanni, we explore the darker side of a reliance on screens and the remote image. In this world, Don Giovanni desires to capture and curate the moment of seduction. As with an addiction, he is compelled to repeat and refine these methods with as many people as he can.”
Thus, Andrew Staples describes the setup of this version of Mozart and librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte’s masterpiece. Staples not only sings Don Ottavio, but also directs the opera. The staging has been developed in close collaboration with costume designer Helle Carlsson and set designer Bengt Gomér. “This production will be a triumph of collaboration”, says Staples. The opera has been adapted to not only the conditions of Berwaldhallen, but also those of our current situation.
In the 17th century, Spanish playwright and poet Tirso de Molina published The Seducer of Seville and the Stone Guest, the earliest dramatization of the story of Don Juan, as he was originally called. De Molina wrote hundreds of plays, while simultaneously serving as a Roman Catholic monk.
De Molina portrays Don Juan as an egoistic, morally corrupt libertine. He does not hesitate to cheat and deceive people; even commit murder, in order to satisfy his desires. Don Juan captivates and seduces, but when the spell is broken, he makes enemies of everyone around him. “The characters are drawn to him against their better judgment,” Andrew Staples says. “He exerts a gravitational pull on those around him.”
Today, it is hard not to draw parallels between the fictional character and real sexual offenders. In a post-me too world, we cannot ignore that real-life Don Juans walk among us, and even if reality catches up with some of them, many peoples’ experiences are never revealed.
Additionally, Don Juan – the charismatic, unrepentant conqueror – could paradoxically be turned into a sort of idol by men who feel disregarded, unwanted, that they drew a blank in life. Security services in many countries caution against the growing, online-based incel culture where misogyny and glorification of violence has supplanted valuable support groups and constructive advice for lonely and frustrated men.
In a world where the assertive, physically attractive, popular man remains an ideal, idolising a character like Don Juan is appealing. However, that includes turning a blind eye to the fact that his apparent prosperity is just that – an apparition.
Here, Don Giovanni is told as a socially distanced, up-to-date drama. Characters as well as performers are separated, figuratively and literally, by screens on stage. However, physical distance does little to relieve our psychological vulnerability. On the contrary, many suffer daily at the hands of people who express and execute hideous offenses under the internet’s perceived veil of anonymity.
Andrew Staples continues: “We have imagined a world similar to the one we currently live in, where the characters maintain physical distance and satisfy their craving for intimacy and validation through their proximity to technology and its many screens.”
Don Giovanni is regarded as one of Mozart’s finest achievements. It is one of the most performed operas worldwide and the soloists performing here in Berwaldhallen have sung their roles several times before. Daniel Harding has also conducted the opera before, including at the renowned Festival d’Aix-en-Provence where Peter Mattei sung the title role, as he does here in Berwaldhallen.
Mozart classified Don Giovanni as an “opera buffa”, a genre characterized by comical scenes and roles in identifiable, everyday situations, as opposed to “opera seria” which generally treats historical or mythological topics. Looking at it today, perhaps Don Giovanni is something in-between. Rather than undermining the gravity of the plot, the lightness of the music can potentially amplify the tragic and horrific elements, not unlike a thriller or horror film. Andrew Staples describes the opera as complicated and ambiguous and that today, more than ever, it is worth hearing – and discussing.
The Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra is known worldwide as one of Europe’s most versatile orchestras with an exciting and varied repertoire and a constant striving to break new ground. The orchestra’s high-quality music making as well as its collaborations with internationally renowned composers, conductors and soloists have been rewarded with numerous prizes and accolades.
“The orchestra has a unique combination of humility, sensibility and musical imagination”, says Daniel Harding, chief conductor of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra since 2007. “I have never had a concert with the orchestra where they haven’t played as though their lives depended on it!”
The first radio orchestra was formed in 1925, the same year that the Swedish Radio Service began its broadcasts. Since then, the orchestra’s concerts have always been broadcast by the Swedish Radio. The Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra received its current name in 1967.
Through the years, the orchestra has had several distinguished chief conductors. Two of them, Herbert Blomstedt and Esa-Pekka Salonen, have since been appointed conductors laureate together with Valery Gergiev, a regular guest conductor and co-founder of the Baltic Sea Festival.
Daniel Harding is Music and Artistic Director of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra. He is also Artistic Director of the Anima Mundi Festival in Pisa and Conductor Laureate of the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, with whom he has worked for more than 20 years. He is one of few conductors regularly invited to conduct the world’s foremost orchestras, including the Berliner Philharmoniker, Royal Concergebouw Orchestra and Wiener Philharmoniker, and additionally a qualified airline pilot.
A renowned opera conductor, he has led acclaimed productions at Teatro alla Scala in Milan, Theater an der Wien, London’s Royal Opera House and at the Salzburg and Aix-en-Provence Festivals. He has made a great number of recordings, including Grammy Award-winning Billy Budd with the London Symphony Orchestra and Beethoven’s Piano Concertos No. 3 and 4 with the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra and Maria João Pires.
Harding’s contract as music director extends through the 2022–2023 season. In 2019, he also accepted a new role as the orchestra’s first artistic director with an overall responsibility for the orchestra’s artistic vision. This expanded role also includes the opportunity to create brand new types of concert programmes and ways to present classical music in creative ways.
In the winter of 2019–2020, baritone Peter Mattei sang his first Wozzeck, the title role of Alban Berg’s opera, at the Metropolitan in New York. In January 2020 he also performed Schubert’s Winterreise with pianist Lars-David Nilsson at Carnegie Hall in New York. Last season, the same duo went on an acclaimed Nordic concert tour with Winterreise that led to an album recording as well as a TV version for SVT.
Last season, Peter appeared in the title role of Mozart’s Don Giovanni at both the Metropolitan and at Wiener Staatsoper. It gave him his international breakthrough, in Peter Brooks’ production at Aix-en-Provence, and remains one of his favourite roles. He has since performed it at prominent venues such as the Royal Swedish Opera, Scottish Opera, Opéra National de Paris and Teatro alla Scala.
Peter made a sensational debut performance as Amfortas in Wagner’s Parsifal at the Metropolitan in the spring of 2013. The following season saw yet another success with Wolfram in Tannhäuser at Staatsoper Berlin. Among his many other roles are the count in Le Nozze di Figaro, the title role of Billy Budd, Don Fernando in Fidelio and Pentheus in Daniel Börtz’ The Bacchae, directed by Ingmar Bergman at the Royal Swedish Opera.
John Lundgren started performing at the Royal Danish Opera already while studying in at the Royal Opera Academy in Copenhagen. He has performed dramatic baritone roles such as Rodrigo in Verdi’s Don Carlos, Count di Luna in Il Trovatore, Scarpia in Puccini’s Tosca and Tarquinius in Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia. He has also done several Wagner roles such as Kurwenal in Tristan und Isolde, Alberich in Der Ring des Nibelungen, Amfortas in Parsifal and recently the Wanderer in Siegfried in Leipzig 2015 and Wotan in Die Walküre at the Bayreuth Festival in 2016 and 2017.
Contemporary opera is also an important part of his repertoire, including Prospero in Thomas Adès’ The Tempest at the Royal Danish Opera in Copenhagen, Hans Gefors’ Notorius at the Gothenburg Opera and no less than four different roles in Reine Jönsson’s Cecilia och apkungen at the Drottningholm Palace Theatre. In 2006 he was awarded the Birgit Nilsson award and in 2010 he was made a Knight of the Order of the Dannebrog by Queen Margrethe II of Denmark.
Andrew Staples is an acclaimed and versatile singer who sings regularly with conductors such as Simon Rattle, Daniel Harding and Yannick Nézet-Séguin and orchestras including the Berliner Philharmoniekr, Rotterdam Philharmonic, London Symphony Orchestra and Wiener Philharmoniker. He has made several lauded performances in Berwaldhallen, including Bach’s St Matthew Passion with Alan Gilbert during the Baltic Sea Festival 2019 and Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius conducted by Daniel Harding the same autumn.
In opera, he is a regular guest at the Royal Opera House in London where he has sung Tamino in Die Zauberflöte, Flammand in Strauss’ Capriccio, Narraboth in Salome and Artabanes in Thomas Arne’s Artaxerxes. He is also a multifaceted director, from staging classics like Così fan tutte and La bohème in London to Handel’s Dido and Aeneas in a dance club with Kiez Oper in Berlin, as well as a production for the Choir of London interweaving Britten’s classic Hymn to St Cecilia with depositions from Palestinian detainees. He works closely with creative partner Sophie Hunter.
In December 2019, he made a strong debut at the Metropolitan Opera as Andres in Berg’s Wozzeck. A month later he was praised once again, when he on short notice was summoned for Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde with Gustavo Dudamel and the New York Philharmonic. He has recorded several large works such as John Adams’ Doctor Atomic, Edward Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius and Bohuslav Martinů’s The Epic of Gilgamesh.
Mari Eriksmoen triumphed in her debut as Mélisande in Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande in Jalet Cherkaoui’s acclaimed new staging for Opera Vlaanderen and Grand Théâtre de Luxembourg in 2018, conducted by Alejo Pérez. Other recent highlights include Servilia in Sam Brown’s new production of Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito at Theater an der Wien, Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro at Den Norske Opera and Romilda in Handel’s Serse at Opéra de Rouen and Théâtre des Champs-Élysées. Concert highlights include Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 with the Oslo Philharmonic and Jukka-Pekka Saraste.
Other career highlights include Sophie in Der Rosenkavalier for Den Norske Opera, Blondchen in Die Entführung aus dem Serail at Oper Frankfurt and, in a display of versatility, Waldvogel in Daniel Barenboim’s Ring Cycle at Teatro alla Scala. She is frequently invited to sing Solveig in Grieg’s Peer Gynt and has recorded both Schumann’s Scenen aus Goethes Faust with Daniel Harding, Blondchen in Die Entführung aus dem Serail with both René Jacobs and Robin Ticciati as well as an acclaimed debut recital disc.
Malin Byström sang Donna Anna in Mozart’s Don Giovanni at the Royal Opera House in London in 2019, a role she has also sung at, for instance, the Metropolitan Opera. She has had recurring engagements at the Royal Opera House in roles including Hélène in Verdi’s Les Vêpres siciliennes, Mathilde in Rossini’s William Tell and Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte.
At the Metropolitan Opera she has also sung Marguerite in Gounod’s Faust, Donna Elvira and Donna Anna in Don Giovanni and the title role in Strauss’ Arabella. She has appeared at the Royal Swedish Opera as the Marschallin in Der Rosenkavalier, the title role in Giordano’s Fedora and Romilda in Handel’s Serse.
She has also performed at the Salzburg Festival, Bayerische Staatsoper, Festival d’Aix-en-Provence, Gothenburg Opera and Grand Théâtre de Genève. On the concert stage she has performed several times with conductor Kurt Masur, she has sung Sibelius’ Kullervo with Eivind Gullberg Jensen and Beethoven’s Missa solemnis with Herbert Blomstedt. In 2008 she received the Birgit Nilsson Award and in 2018 she was awarded Court Singer and named Female Singer of the Year at the International Opera Awards.
Henning von Schulman was a member of the Royal Danish Opera’s ensemble between 2013 and 2017, singing roles including Leporello in Don Giovanni, the title role in Le Nozze di Figaro and Banco in Verdi’s Macbeth. In 2018, he sang Sparafucile in RIgoletto at the Malmö Opera, performed in an acclaimed rendition of Strauss’ Salome at the Salzburger Festspiele conducted by Franz Welser-Möst and the same autumn sang Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra in Suntory Hall, Tokyo.
Following in the autumn of 2018, he made his debut at the Gothenburg Opera as Fasolt in Das Rheingold where he the year after sang the title role in Le Nozze di Figaro. He is also a frequently engaged Lied and oratorio singer: from Verdi’s Requiem, Stravinsky’s Pulcinella and Handel’s Messiah to Schubert’s Winterreise, Mussorgsky’s Songs and Dances of Death and Jacques Ibert’s Don Quichotte. He has won several awards, including first prize in the Otto Edelmann International Singing Competition in 2013 and the Birgit Nilsson Award in 2017.
Soprano Johanna Wallroth was thrust into the limelight when she won First Prize in the prestigious Mirjam Helin International Singing Competition in 2019. Originally trained at the Royal Swedish Ballet School, Wallroth has been studying at Vienna’s Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst since 2016.
She made her operatic debut as Barbarina in Le Nozze di Figaro under Arnold Östman at Ulriksdal Palace Theatre, Stockholm in 2013, going on to appear as Eurydice in Gluck’s Orfeo ed Eurydice at MDW Wien, Despina in Così fan tutte at Schlosstheater Schönbrunn Wien and Pamina in Die Zauberflöte at Moscow’s Gnessin Academy. Johanna has since returned to Schlosstheater Schönbrunn as both Gretel in Humperdinck’s Hänsel und Gretel and Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro, and portrayed the role of Ismene in Telemann’s Orpheus at Vadstena Castle.
In the 2019–2020 season, Johanna Wallroth appeared as Sandmännchen/Taumännchen in Hänsel und Gretel at Norrlandsoperan in Umeå, joined Sakari Oramo for Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 at Helsinki Music Centre and debuts at Savonlinna Opera Festival in July 2020 as Frasquita in Carmen.
Johan Schinkler has sung several of the great bass roles, especially at Folkoperan in Stockholm and the Gothenburg Opera. In Gothenburg, his roles include Daland in Wagner’s Der fliegende Holländer, the title role in Bartóks Bluebeard’s Castle, Il Commendatore and Masetto in Don Giovanni and Sarastro in Der Zauberflöte. At Folkoperan he has appeared as Leporello in Don Giovanni, the title role in Le Nozze di Figaro, Méphistophélès in Gounod’s Faust, Parsee Rustomjee and Krishna in Philip Glass’ Satyagraha and the title role in Wilhelm Kienzl’s Don Quixote, among others.
In the autumn of 2020 he returns to Folkoperan as Marke in Tristan und Isolde and in 2021 he will sing Sparafucile in Rigoletto at Opera Hedeland in Denmark. Other Wagner roles include Hagen in Götterdämmerung at the Latvian National Opera in Riga, Gurnemanz in Parsifal at Wermland Opera and Fafner in Das Rheingold at Dalhalla Opera. He has also sung Molokov in the Swedish version of the musical Chess, Mozart’s Requiem and Bach’s St John Passion and is the Swedish voice of Mufasa in The Lion King, First Ancestor in Mulan and Ragnar in How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World.
When the opera begins, Don Giovanni’s servant Leporello wishes he did not serve such a cruel, demanding master. He is keeping watch outside the house where Don Giovanni is attempting to seduce or rape the young Donna Anna. When she cries for help, Don Giovanni flees and murders her father, Il Commendatore, who tries to stop him. Donna Anna swears vengeance and her fiancé, Don Ottavio, promises to help her.
Later, Don Giovanni runs into one of his former conquests, Donna Elvira, and rejects her by having Leporello recount the thousands of women he has seduced. When Don Giovanni passes a peasant wedding, he tries to lure away the bride, Zerlina, but Donna Elvira interrupts him. Instead, he invites everyone to a wedding celebration at his home where he hopes he will be successful. At the party, Donna Anna and Don Ottavio confronts him together with the couple, Zerlina and Masetto. At gunpoint, Don Giovanni and Leporello runs away.
Leporello threatens to leave Don Giovanni, who calms him with an offer of money. Don Giovanni moves on to try to seduce Donna Elvira’s maid, exchanging clothes with Leporello, but is once more interrupted, this time by Masetto and his friends. They do not recognise him, so Don Giovanni takes the opportunity to trounce Masetto once his friends have left. Donna Elvira mistakes Leporello for her former lover and defends him when Donna Anna, Don Ottavio, Zerlina and Masetto surround him. Leporello is revealed, escapes, and the others realise they have been duped.
Don Giovanni and Leporello wander into a nearby graveyard, where they hear a threatening voice from beyond the grave. The voice comes from a statue of the murdered Commendatore. Don Giovanni scornfully invites the statue home for dinner. Back home, the statue suddenly appears among a throng of demons who drag Don Giovanni down to Hell. Freed of their tormentor, the others reflect on their experiences and what they will do next.
Approximate duration: 3 hours
Director Andrew Staples
Set and Light Design Bengt Gomér
Costume Designer Helle Carlsson
Assistant Director Aurélie Ferrière
Projection Technician Ishai Mika, Per Rydnert, Anders Granström
Lighting Technician Rickard Gabrielsson
Host, Swedish Radio P2 Sara Norling
Recording Producer Jan B Larsson
Mixing Engineer Johan Hyttnäs
Broadcast Engineer Peter Flodby
Video Director Karl Thorson
Score Supervisor Aurélie Ferrière
Web Manager Ulrica Stjernqvist
Deputy Editor David Saulesco
Social media Editor Joar Plunger
Don Giovanni Surtitles © Jonathan Burton 2002, rev. 2019