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American Women's Club of Hamburg

Opera Goes Cinema

Juan

What a feast to the ears and the eyes this movie is! Casper Holten is one of Europe’s leading opera directors and he has succeeded in making a fascinating movie for his film debut. Of course, it would be hard to fail with the soundtrack of Mozart’s Don Giovanni as a backdrop, but Mr. Holten has taken the innovative step of making a movie as Mozart himself might have made it had he been alive today. So Don Giovanni becomes Juan (Christoper Maltman) who wears a smart suit instead of an eighteenth century waistcoat and silk tights. His sidekick Leperello (Mikhail Petrenko) looks like a down-at-heel student and Juan’s many lady conquests wear cocktail dresses, business suits or casual jeans as the scene demands.  Juan’s seductions take place near Copenhagen’s opera house, railway station and outside cafe. Swear words and graphic scenes have been added, no doubt to help give a modern feel to the movie.
This clever and confident movie makes you wonder what the brilliant Mr. Holten will do next.

Film Talk for Opera Lovers

Five people discussed making a film version of Mozart’s Don Giovanni which they called Juan: Michael Schønnemann, producer, Kasper Holten, director from Denmark, and three Swedish opera singers: Katija Dragojevic, Maria Bengtsson, and Ludwig Bengtson Lindström. When discussing the difference between putting opera on stage or on film, Holten stressed that casting is most important as each singer had to “look” the part. No fat lady could play a young girl. He began planning the film more than six years ago, and the cast was completed three years ago. As this presented a difficult, new role, he could only accept singers who were both enthusiastic and curious about the project. Although Holten directs opera at the Royal Copenhagen Opera House, this took different skills. For example, as Bengtson Lindström said, “Kasper kept telling me to do less, do less, you are acting too much.” I said, “Yes, but I’m not doing anything; I’m just standing here.” The whole opera was sung, with perhaps 20 spoken words added. The singers had mini speakers in their ears to keep time to the music. Often they had to work late into the night in chilly, empty old apartments all in Budapest. They agreed that Mozart is easier to film than perhaps Wagner or Verdi and singer don’t have the same control over the end-product as they would over an opera performance.

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