Don Gioxote: Tilting at the Windmill
Updated: Jul 31
I recently said this on Twitter about working on Don Giovanni:
I've been thinking it for a while as I work on this production of Don Giovanni. It's bloody stupid to try and do this opera, because everyone's done it. What Hamlet is for actors, Don Giovanni is for opera directors. It's rich and layered and complicated in ways that allow everyone to have their own take, and rich and layered and complicated in ways that allow people who tilt at the windmill too soon to demonstrate that they're not yet ready to juggle all the balls.
For some directors - indeed, some schools of directing - it's the production that marks a breakthrough into the wider world. Because it's about justice, and social hierarchy, and love and sex, and gender, and power, and all sorts of other things (religion/propriety/freedom/decadence...), it can welcome anything you throw at it. If wisely thrown.
And this richness means that, when approaching it, I can start to pick out the things that interest me as a director and a translator and a human being. Other productions slip aside. But they are still there. The sense that it's a windmill that everybody tilts at comes from 1) me misusing the phrase slightly, and 2) knowing that doing a Don Giovanni puts me in a position of being directly compared to other directors, many of whom are masters of the form. Since I mainly do new work or weird old work, this is an odd experience.
It seems impossibly arrogant to try and match them. But the perfect Don Giovanni is impossible to create. You create yours - possibly multiple times in a career, if you're lucky - and see how you do against the windmill.
After all, I'd sooner bet on Mozart being remembered in 2119 than on me.