Director and choreographer Giorgia Madia tells Patrycja Czerwińska about his vision of Don Juan, which he will be working on with the company of Wrocław Opera from the beginning of February until the premiere on February 19.
Let’s dispel all doubts. How do you actually pronounce the title of the performance ?
The correct pronunciation in my opinion is don huan, because the original story was written by the Spanish playwright Tirso de Moline. We also have Don Giovanni and its more famous versions like the one by Lorenzo Da Ponte. But my version is don huan.
Who is this titular Don Juan?
This is still an open question which is the subject of more than a few studies and stories. Who he actually is, in my ballet you can only find out at the end of the performance. He is certainly an egotist, who draws strength from his domination over other characters and life in general. He is punished because his actions contradict the teaching of the Church. For this reason, in my production he is accompanied by a character who is something like his alter ego, a kindred soul who takes the form of the devil. This is a clue to his personality and my interpretation of this character. The dramaturgy of the play will better explain who Don Juan really is. Or maybe it will be a question for the audience at the end of the play…
How do we re-tell the story of Don Juan, the cynical hunter of women’s hearts, the sophisticated lover, and the manipulator and egoist at the same time? Artists in various eras have done it in their own ways.
My approach to Don Juan is based on a search, an exploration of his personality. I appreciate him not only from a mental point of view, but also from an aesthetic one. He is attracted to beauty, eroticism, sexuality – these are constant parts of his language. I show all this in my ballet, in which he speaks with fascination about sexuality and sensuality, there is a note of depravity in it. There are serious elements in this ballet, which are not for the young audience. it is definitely a performance for an adult audience.
I appreciate the complexity of this ballet, its drama, in which it is interesting that Don Juan is not someone who loves women – he loves to conquer them. So it stands out already from a psychological point of view. Another aspect that I took into account is sensuality. In ballet, there is no better way to express the charm of seduction than physicality. Aesthetics are also important – I wanted to have a classical look to it combining contemporary and retro elements. We see this in the period costumes, which however are not literal, they are more for interpretation.
Ballet is an affirmation of the human body – what do you focus on when creating choreography and what do you want to direct the audience’s attention to?
Of course, in Don Juan the aesthetic factor is extremely important, because dance is a visual art, but in my opinion the psychological side is even more interesting and it is to this that I would like to draw the audience’s attention. It is a story in the form of a ballet farce in which the body plays the role of commentator, just like in the commedia dell’arte, which was the first narration of the myth of Don Juan, even before Tirso da Molina put it on paper.
Don Juan “dances” to the music of Christoph Willibald Gluck – which elements will you combine in dance and music?
Gluck created a Don Juan piece lasting about 20 minutes – he had no ambition to tell the whole story. The operation I performed was to extend this ballet over the whole evening, which I achieved by including other compositions by this fantastic composer. We will hear them performed live by the wonderful Wrocław Opera Orchestra. This is what helped me find the inspiration for this story. The music and the atmosphere create this ballet.
Is that why Don Juan is worth seeing?
I think my Don Juan stands out for its originality. I believe that someone who comes to see this ballet will be surprised by its variety and departure from what we call standard ballet. Of course, the ultimate goal of the show is to provide the audience with entertainment. This is achieved through visual means and musical virtuosity. Don Juan is a sensual and erotic ballet, it has a specific addressee who expects this and wants to have fun. As it is a farcical ballet, it also has moments of irony and soulfulness, there are even some very dramatic moments. This story is not a light story, we also see in it a juxtaposition of the huge contrasts between sanctity, religion and depravity. These are strong in their expression, and we see their value precisely in these contrasts.
Will there be moments when the audience may flush?
There are moments that can be uncomfortable. If we don’t explain these disturbing sides of the story, we don’t tell it in the right way. It cannot be told lightly, because it is not a light story. The weight comes from the capacity of the genre: there will be room for comedy, drama, there will be both ironic and sensual elements. Dance is a universal language, and Don Juan will be put into words by the Wrocław Opera. I look forward to it!