Culture Magazine

A Lazy Person's Guide to Opera: Don Giovanni - Part 2

By Pinkall @pinkall
Welcome back!  Yesterday's tip, Try not to read the supertitles the whole time!, was just one attempt to help the laziest of us appreciate opera without falling asleep.  Today, I'd like to help those who are so lazy that they do not want to think at all when they are entertained.  Lazy, couch potato opera-goers are bound to have a tortured evening of grumpy attitudes and numb butt cheeks, daydreams will turn into day-nightmares (daymares?) all because they didn't do a little bit of homework beforehand.
Tip #2 - Remember, operas are NOT movies!
Don't wait to be surprised! There are few car chases, explosions, computer generated dinosaurs, or talking sponges in opera. You have to know what is going to happen.
Now for those who suddenly became upset because they can't be lazy anymore and actually have to try to enjoy something - keep in mind, you do it all the time.  Unless all you need is a kaleidoscope or baby mobile to be entertained, you use your mind all the time even when you are watching TV or a movie; art just requires you to use a little more than normal.
But since we are being lazy, and we have run into the dilemma of wanting to see an opera (in this week's case Don Giovanni) here's some help - a very very very brief synopsis of the opera (there are longer ones out there, but let's not get carried away and run the risk of becoming bored).  Here are just a few background things before we begin - it is set in Seville, Spain in the 17th century, the opera is the story of Don Juan (Don Giovanni is the Italian name for Don Juan) who has slept with thousands of women, the music was written by Mozart, and there are many main characters, but to help all the lazy people, I have cut them out to help with the confusion of it all.  (And for the opera lovers out there - please forgive me, but the opera is several hours long and I can't give EVERY detail)
Don Giovanni loves sex.  He tries to rape a woman, but kills her father in a sword fight (the Commendatore) who was trying to save her.  Later, Giovanni runs into a crazy girl.  He's hooked-up with her before, and doesn't care for her anymore.  Giovanni then finds a couple on their wedding day and goes after the bride.  When he gets caught trying to rape her, all the main characters attack him, but he escapes when Mozart makes everyone stand and yell for five minutes.
Giovanni now has the hots for the crazy girl's servant.  To get to the servant, he switches clothes with his friend who lures the crazy girl away.  Giovanni and his friend deceive an angry mob and all the main characters, because they switched clothes. Afterwards, Giovanni is in a graveyard when a statue of the Commendatore comes to life and says that his death will be avenged.  Giovanni thinks it's a joke, and invites the talking statue to dinner.  At the dinner (and in our production, an orgy), the statue arrives and tells Giovanni to repent.  Giovanni doesn't, and the statue drags him to hell.
(There is actually a little "moral of the story" ending after that, but we're not doing it, and it's kind of corny anyway, so we'll just skip that part.)
There you go.  Now you have a very brief idea of what to expect.  Since I spoiled the story for you, you don't need to read all the supertitles and you can spend time enjoying the music and watching the sex scenes and deaths. I know it is difficult and painful to learn new things, and that is no different for an opera lover, but tomorrow I will let you in on a little secret that us opera folk have figured out: Tip #3 - Be a Snob! - Appreciating and Expecting the Impossible.

And for some extra practice in opera-going, I hope you will attend our production of Don Giovanni at the UMKC Conservatory, Thursday March 17-20, 2011!

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