Collateral effects, by Sonia Arienta

Don Giovanni misappropriations

Travelling around the Nineteenth Century European theatres, Mozart-Da Ponte’s Don Giovanni – an artistic product on the border line between Ancien Régime and modernity – shows how a lyrical opera can be adulterate in its primary meaning. Da Ponte’s libretto and Mozart’s full score manipulations reveal some contradictory ways of cultural appropriation. The status of masterpiece recognized a priori to that work by the Nineteenth Century international community, because of its belonging to the Mozart catalogue, does not protect the same against compulsory adaptations. Enlightenment, in fact, little by little, is censured or repressed by bourgeoisie during its castling in conservative positions, since the Vienna Congress days. In this connection France, Great Britain, Italy with their different governments and social organisations, give three patterns of behaviour about the import of an artistic product.

The distortions of text replace the original message with a new one: the one approved by the cultural and governmental institutions of each nation. So that, Don Giovanni is filtered by latent “manipulators”. In this process of compulsory misrepresentations, theatre managers, translators, arrangers, impresarios, directors act on the traits and functions of characters with a less or more invasive manner. First of all, the protagonist, who in this opera is a spokesman of a liberty in fieri. Of freedom from religious and moral nets, near to a radical and revolutionary change. In fact, from a point of view peculiar to Enlightenment, he criticises three institutions, basis of the social order: couple and class relationships, relationships with death and religion…
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