Interview – Metropolitan Opera: Seduction Theory (12-10-2008)

By Charles Sheek (PlaybillArts)

«Erwin Schrott, a veteran Don Giovanni, tells the Met’s Charles Sheek why opera’s ultimate bad boy continues to enthrall artists and audiences.

You’ve sung Don Giovanni many times, but never before at the Met. How has your interpretation developed?

Everybody discovers different nuances each time they perform in an opera. It grows on you. And I have to compare my own point of view to those of the director and the other artists. That’s why singing the same role so many times is never boring—it’s never the same thing.

You were asked to sing Giovanni early in your career but decided to wait. Why?

Most people think Mozart is the easiest way for a singer to approach the profession, but it’s not easy at all. His music can be cheery or tragic or a lot of things at the same time. When you look at Don Giovanni it may look simple at first, but then you discover there’s a lot more to it. Either you decide to sing it and see what happens, or you take your time and study all the details until you’re confident enough to face Mozart onstage. I took the second option.

What is it that Don Giovanni is really after? Is it the seduction, power, the thrill of the chase…?

I think he’s a bored, emotionless person who entertains himself by hurting other people. He serially misbehaves. He fakes passion, he’s seductive, but the truth is that he has no passion at all—because it’s an emotion, and he’s unable to feel anything for anyone. He doesn’t care about what happens around him.

Mozart wrote the opera in the 1780s. Why does this character continue to interest us?

There are still plenty of Giovannis in the world! The opera is a psychological essay on infidelity, betrayal, and men always being on the verge of moral corruption. It’s very contemporary, if you think of it in these terms!

You sang in this production on a Met tour to Japan two years ago. How would you describe director Marthe Keller’s staging?

Her vision is quite simple, but in a good and interesting way. Simple things are often the hardest to achieve. Marthe sees Giovanni as some sort of addict, addicted to seduction to the extent that he behaves as if defying death were the ultimate act of seduction.

You just had a son, Tiago, with Anna Netrebko. Congratulations! Would you want him to become a performer?

I’d like my children to become whatever they wish. And to be happy—I couldn’t ask for more for them than that.»

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