The Giacomo Variations

The Giacomo Variations is a play/opera devised by Michael Sturminger [German], featuring the music from operas by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Lorenzo Da Ponte. It stars John Malkovich, Ingeborga Dapkunaite, Martene Grimson* and Andrei Bondarenko*.

Giacomo Casanova (John Malkovich) reminisces about his life. He gets a visit from Elisa von der Recke (Ingeborga Dapkunaite), who becomes his woman of the moment, while she tries to get a look at his memoirs. So we start hearing about Casanova’s life little by little, helped by the music from Cosi Fan Tutte, Don Giovanni and Le Nozze Di Figaro.

The Giacomo Variations builds from a good idea and has a good cast. Unfortunately, its director is not that good and the cast, albeit good actors, were wrong for the play. Or the play was wrong for them – whichever way you want to see it.

John Malkovich was brilliant, as usual. As was Ingeborga Dapkunaite, who was awesomely funny and actually beat John Malkovich in my opinion. Unfortunately neither of the two are opera singers. So Sturminger decided to solve this situations to cast opera singers in the same roles – who just show up as doubles to sing. And even though both of them are wonderful singers (and Malkovich really isn’t), that’s just were the trouble starts.

Since you got two actors for every role and all actors taking on multiple roles (except for Malkovich), things get confusing pretty quickly, especially when you’re not familiar with the details of Casanova’s life. It would have probably been better to do the whole thing without Malkovich and Dapkunaite and gone with only opera singers.

The script could have done with some tightening. During the first half I actually fell asleep for a few minutes, and during the second half I kept hoping that Casanova would finally die. [And then his death took about three hours.]

The music is beautiful, and I very much liked the concept (that already worked so well in Moulin Rouge!) of taking music from something to use it for something else. The stage and costume design was great, too.

Summarising: Should have been better than it was. Should have been shorter than it was.

*On the day I saw it.

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