Don Giuliani

A masterwork given new meaning.


Jake Tapper
May 16, 2000 8:00PM (UTC)

Mozart's opera "Don Giovanni" tells the tale of Don Juan, the world's ultimate ladies man, as he tomcats throughout Seville, wooing seqoritas of 16th century Spain. The opera just finished a run at the New York City Opera. But following recent events in New York, the Shubert Group has rushed a new version into production, which will open tonight at Lincoln Center.

<b<DON GIULIANI

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Music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Words by the New York Post, the New York Daily News, the New York Observer, others.

CHARACTERS

Don Giuliani (bass-baritone), the Mayor of Seville
Teitelbaumo (bass-baritone), his loyal servant
Donna Hanna (shrill soprano), the spurned wife
Donna Judi (soprano), the "very good friend"
Donna Cristyne (tenor), the young ex-servant
Hillario (mum), the political opponent

Emperor Pataki (bass-baritone), ruler of Spain
Lazio (soprano), a lowly nobleman, but one in favor with Pataki
Damato (falsetto), the clown

Papparazzo (booming bass), the town crier

Also: Peasants, Villagers, Ladies, Gentlemen, the Heads That Talk.

ACT 1

In a courtyard of the Mansion of Gracie in Seville, Teitelbaumo, Don Giuliani's servant, complains that his life is drudgery -- while his master is indoors with a woman, he must keep watch in the dark. Don Giuliani, the mayor of Seville, suddenly enters from inside the mansion, pursued by his wife, Donna Hanna, who is determined to learn the identity of her husband's latest conquest.

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On a Seville street at dawn, Teitelbaumo meekly contemplates his master's immoral ways. Don Giuliani angrily rebukes him and begins planning another amorous adventure. Donna Cristyne enters, swearing either to win back her faithless lover or to seek revenge against him. As Don Giuliani emerges to comfort the suffering beauty, he recognizes her as one of the many women he has seduced, promised to marry and deserted. He slips away, instructing Teitelbaumo to advise her to forget him and to find love elsewhere -- say, with a golf writer. Teitelbaumo shows Donna Cristyne a catalog in which he has recorded Don Giulianni's conquests. The outraged Donna Cristyne exits to plot revenge.

In the countryside of Chappaquanito, a peasant woman, Hillario, embarks upon a "listening tour" of Spain so as to maybe rule over it one day. Happening upon the scene with Teitelbaumo, Don Giuliani sets his sights on running against and defeating Hillario -- whose husband is Don Giuliani's only rival for the title of most-accomplished swordsman in all the land -- and springs into action.

He decides that he will combat Hillario by proclaiming to all how immoral and value-challenged Hillario and her spouse are, demanding that the Ten Commandments be posted in school houses throughout the land and that the shoppes of ill-repute in midtown Seville be closed.

ACT II

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In the garden of Don Giuliani's palace, Teitelbaumo berates Paparazzo, the town crier, for even thinking about telling the people of Seville about Don Giuliani's social life. Showing uncommon restraint, Paparazzo complies.

Donna Hanna appears and performs a moving aria, confiding to Hillario about her past attempts to get close to her estranged husband and how every time she tried to embrace him, Donna Cristyne would appear and inform her that she needed time to "brief" her boss. Hillario nods understandingly: Her spouse is in the middle of a countrywide scandal involving an ample-bosomed young waif [as Paparazzo describes in graphic detail in an animated aside].

Teitelbaumo and Don Giuliani huddle, thinking of other ways to spread other unflattering news about Hillario throughout the land. Meanwhile, as Teitelbaumo sends parchments to the far corners of Spain, where Hillario's spouse is despised (though careful not to send such parchments in Seville, where he is beloved) Don Giuliani and Donna Judi retire to a room in a local Inne where she provides him with what Don Giuliani calls "advice" and "support." Meanwhile, Donna Hanna, in rags, begins wandering the land, weeping and crying out for reconciliation with her husband, as well as any choice dramatic roles, should casting agents be interested.

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Donna Hanna runs inside when her husband and Donna Judi march from a high-profile brunch eatery together into the middle of a parade of drunken Irishmen toasting their saint, and then into a reception for Paparazzo and the Heads That Talk. In a moving aria, Donna Judi proclaims her love for the "dreamboat" mayor of Seville.

Meanwhile, as Don Giuliani -- accompanied by Donna Judi -- bobs from Inne to campaign event to Inne to parade, Teitelbaumo sends out parchments accusing Hillario of displaying "hostility toward Seville's religious traditions" and accusing her spouse of "ethical lapses." Another parchment, from a friend of Don Giuliani, calls Hillario "far more liberal and corrupt than her husband." Still another calls the couple "two charlatans." Don Giuliani berates a painting at the Seville museum of art for offending his Catholic sensibilities, after which he retreats to an Inne with Donna Judi for more advice and support.

While a small orchestra strikes up a minuet in honor of Don Giuliani, Emperor Pataki rears his head and wonders aloud, mainly to Lazio and Damato, if Don Giuliani can hold off the speechless Hillario.

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Suddenly, Don Giuliani enters and announces he is battling a serious illness.

INTERMISSION

ACT III

At dusk, on a street in Seville, Don Giuliani asks Teitelbaumo if his campaign can now come out in favor of posting only nine commandments in schools. Puzzled, Teitelbaumo disavows him of the idea. The Heads That Talk appear, explaining how Don Giuliani's illness makes him more human to the common Spaniard.

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Suddenly, Paparazzo arrives on the scene with sketches of Don Giulianni and Donna Judi in various compromising positions like the parade of drunken Irishmen, and various famous Seville hotspots.

The townsfolk turn and face Don Giuliani to see what his reaction will be. In the background, Emperor Pataki appears, with Lazio trailing behind him.

Damato, the clown who mocks all, suddenly finds himself with a bad case of laryngitis. The disease seems to be a curse from the Gods; most of the Heads That Talk, the ones who previously favored Don Giulianni over Hillario, find themselves unable to speak.

After much anticipation, Don Giuliani stands before the townspeople and declares, in a moving aria, "I rely on Donna Judi, and she helps me a great deal. And I'm going to need her more now than maybe I did before." (Upon hearing this, the Inne keeper buys a beach house.)

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Don Giuliani says he and Donna Hanna are over, finished, kaput. "I don't really care about politics right now," sings Don Giuliani, his hands tightly, desperately gripping the lectern, his eyes cast downward, singing sotto voce.

"I'm thinking about my family/The people that I love/and what can be done that's honest and truthful/and that protects them the best."

Applause erupts among the townsfolk for his confessional. "Honest and human," declare the Heads That Talk.

But suddenly Donna Hanna emerges from the Mansion of Gracie and, weeping, berates her soon-to-be-erstwhile husband. She says she had no idea that Don Giuliani was ending their marriage.

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"I had hoped to keep this marriage together," she sings. "For several years it was difficult to participate/in Don Giuliani's public life because of his relationship/with one of his staff members." (Spotlight on Donna Cristyne standing with Emperor Pataki and other noblemen.)

"I made a major effort to bring us back together," Donna Hanna sings, as almost everyone on stage is moved to tears. "Don Giuliani and I reestablished/some of our personal intimacy through the fall. At that point/He chose another path."

The Heads That Talk begin holding their noses while they proclaim Don Giuliani all but a non-entity. Which they do, over and over and over for days. Emperor Pataki prepares a small reception for Don Giuliani, but he instead goes to play golf with Teitelbaumo.

"What will happen?" Papparazzo cries. "What will become of the mayor of Seville?"

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On the golf course, Donna Cristyne appears, but Don Giuliani mocks her pleas to him to mend his ways. Teitelbaumo returns, stammering that Emperor Pataki has sent a messenger to join them on the links.

The dark figure appears and asks Don Giuliani to accompany him on a walk. Declaring that he fears nothing, Don Giuliani accepts and clasps the figure's outstretched hand. The figure demands that Don Giuliani repent, but he refuses, whereupon demonic voices howl at him that his earthly crimes will pale in comparison to the tortures that await him in Hell. Don Giuliani disappears.

Donna Hanna, Emperor Pataki, Lazio, Damato, the Heads That Talk, Papparazzo, Hillario and the townsfolk arrive, and Teitelbaumo tells them of his master's demise. Lazio and a few other randoms announce that they look forward to running against Hillario, Teitelbaumo decides to search for a new master, and Donna Hanna announces that she has just been offered a role in an opera called "The Vagina Arias."

Final curtain.

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Jake Tapper

Jake Tapper is the senior White House correspondent for ABC News.

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