Famous 1969 version of Mozart’s Don Giovanni returns to the Estates Theatre

Sets and costumes by two important 20th century Czech artistic figures complement Mozart’s famous music

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 24.07.2019 11:35:04 (updated on 24.07.2019) Reading time: 2 minutes

One of the first
things anyone learns about Prague is that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
conducted the premiere of Don Giovanni at the Estates Theatre.

A famous staging
with ground breaking sets is being revived again at same theater on
Aug. 14–18, Aug. 20–25 and Sept. 14–15. The Estates Theatre in
fact is the only theater left standing in the world where Mozart
conducted one of his operas.

This performance of Don Giovanni is a tribute not only to Mozart, but also to two great personalities of Czech and world theater history: director Václav Kašlík and stage designer Josef Svoboda. Their production of Don Giovanni originated in 1969. The new adaptation was created by director Jiří Nekvasil, stage designer Daniel Dvořák and costume designer Theodor Pištěk in 2006.

Pištěk is famous
for making the Oscar-winning costumes for the film Amadeus. He also
had an Oscar nomination for Valmont, and designed the uniforms for
the Prague Castle guards.

Josef Svoboda’s set and Theodor Pištěk’s costumes from a previous revival. Via National Theatre, Miroslav Pavlovič

Svoboda’s famous
set looks as if the rows of the theater’s elaborately decorated box
seats extend onto the stage, and become part of the town square where
the action takes place. This breaks down the division between the
audience and the cast.

In his career, Svoboda was also instrumental in combining live action with projections and lighting effects, which he introduced to the world at Expo 58 in Brussels. He later pioneered the use of lasers and hydraulic effects. These modern elements aren’t used in the Don Giovanni, though.

Svoboda was popular
in France, where he was made Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des
Lettres in Paris in 1976, and received the French Legion of Honor in

Kašlík worked
often with Svoboda, and also had a reputation for experimentation. He
was a composer and conductor, as well as an opera director.

Josef Svoboda’s set and Theodor Pištěk’s costumes from a previous revival. Via National Theatre, Miroslav Pavlovič

This staging of Don Giovanni is a version of the same production that was revived in Prague by Plácido Domingo with two ceremonial performances to mark the 230th anniversary of the world premiere of the opera at the Estates Theater, in October 2017.

The production will
include soloists with the National Theater Opera and the State Opera.
The orchestra and the State Opera Choir will be conducted by Richard
Hein or Jiří Štrunc.

The premiere in
1787 had to be postponed several times, and one legend says that
Mozart composed the overture the night before the premiere, and at
the last moment he presented the musicians copies where the ink had
not yet dried.

In any case,
everything went well and Mozart in a Nov. 4 letter from Prague told
his friends that his opera Don Giovanni was shown to great acclaim
Oct. 29 and he would have wished everyone could participate in his

The performance will
be in Italian with English and Czech surtitles.

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