The tenth most performed opera in the world, this year’s choice for the renowned Pafos Aphrodite Festival is the popular Don Giovanni – a performance which blends comedy, melodrama and the supernatural. Combining Mo-zart’s music with the work of Italian librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte, the opera was first performed in 1787 by the Pra-gue Italian Opera at the Teatro di Praga. And now, almost 230 years later, the same intriguing plot will be brought to life in the exquisite setting of the Mediaeval Castle Square in Paphos by the Parma Opera Organisation CEFAC in collaboration with the Cyprus Symphony Orchestra.
This year sees the 18th iteration of the festival which, in its almost two decades of operation, has delighted hun-dreds of thousands of opera lovers from both Cyprus and abroad. 2015 saw Rossini’s famous melodrama La Ce-nerentola, 2014 was Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte; but this year’s offering promises to be better than anything that has gone before, say organisers, who have striven to improve productions year on year.
“The Pafos Aphrodite Festival is unique; it’s the only festival in Cyprus which stages open air live opera perfor-mances, and also allows audiences on the island the opportunity to enjoy the greatest opera works ever written,” say organisers. “Opera is not necessarily a part of the culture here, but the festival really puts this genre on the map: giving people the chance to meet and watch some of the finest performers and musicians in the world.”
Chosen by the artistic committee of the festival based on familiarity of audiences with the opera and the compos-er alongside ease of staging, most viewers will already be conversant with the plot. Set in 17th century Spain, the story follows the exploits of our titular protagonist (oft known as Don Juan), a rogue of the first order who’s on a continuous conquest: bedding and jilting his many lovers as befits a young, licentious nobleman of the time. But there’s a clue in the subtitle which bodes ill for our scoundrel – Il dissoluto punito, which translates literally as ‘The Rake Punished’ – and by the end of the opera, he’s more than received his just desserts.
Act One opens with Don Giovanni’s faithful attendant, Leporello, standing guard outside the bedroom of Donna Anna while his master makes his move. Alas, her father, the Commendatore overhears the proceedings and rush-es to her assistance – only to be stabbed to death by Don Giovanni. Who then legs it. Sharpish. With no discernible sense of remorse, our protagonist immediately makes a move on another woman, Donna Elvira. Unfortunately, she turns out to have been one of his previous conquests and, needless to say, is pretty angry about the whole business. So he legs it. Again. His third target is a young bride, Zerlina, whom Don Giovanni attempts to seduce on her wedding day. It doesn’t work: Donna Anna, Donna Elvira and Don Ottavio (Zerlina’s fiancé) all arrive at the scene and expose the rogue for the villain he is. So guess what? He legs it.
There’s considerably less running around in Act Two as Don Giovanni – who has yet to learn his lesson – switches clothes with his servant and attempts to continue his seductions. This, of course, is not great for Leporello who, dressed as his master, is caught and denounced as a scoundrel. Luckily, the hapless attendant escapes the unwar-ranted attentions and meets his master in a graveyard by a stony statue of the Commendatore. And this is where the supernatural kicks in: the statue springs to life and pressures the protagonist to repent his evil deeds. Don Giovanni, of course, ignores the advice, and instead invites the statue to dinner… Which proves to be his final un-doing because later that evening the stone Commendatore appears in time to hear our rogue protest his inno-cence, and promptly takes Don Giovanni by the hand and leads him down to hell…
Conducted by Matteo Beltrami, and with artistic direction by Roberto Saltini, the opera promises to be a whirl of excitement for the thousands who flock to see the performance. And not least because of its utterly unique set-ting: where else in the world can you watch classic opera with such an enchanting backdrop? Imagine the scene: the sun setting over the Mediterranean, the ancient Lusignan castle high against the stars, the open air stage set for one of the greatest operas of all time. And the curtains begin to open…
The 18th Pafos Aphrodite Festival
Thee opera Don Giovanni on September 2, 3 and 4 at the Mediaeval Castle Square in Paphos. For more infor-mation and bookings, visit www.pafc.com.cy, [email protected] or call 26 822 218. Tickets cost from €25 to €70. There will be a simultaneous translation in Greek and English via subtitles