You don’t have to be an opera lover to appreciate Don Giovanni or Prague’s beautiful Estates Theatre. You don’t have to know that this is where Mozart’s legendary opera premiered, or that the maestro himself conducted it back in 1787. You don’t have to know Italian or Czech. You just have to know that you will be swept away into a world of the Casanova, his many conquests and his ultimate reckoning.
The Estates Theatre is a tiny, extravagant building that had me believing I was among the aristocracy of a different time. It seats only 643 and the show I attended was close to sold out. For $10, I got a seat on the left side of the second gallery, in the parterre-plus-boxes theatre, about as far away as you can get from the stage in the building. Despite this, however, I felt like I was right next to the actors — if slightly above them. Before the show and during intermission I had a chance to appreciate the incredible baroque gilt interior, which drips decadence.
When the show started I wasn’t concerned that I didn’t speak Italian. The actors play their parts so well and sing with such emotion that the audience has no trouble interpreting their meaning. Leading the cast was the roguish Don Giovanni, Mozart’s take on the classic Don Juan. Stealing the show was perhaps his wig, which was some kind of bizarre blond bouffant mohawk, that fit his character perfectly as he strutted around the stage like a giant peacock.
Don Giovanni is often called the greatest opera of all time. Perhaps the cast at the Estates Theatre doesn’t give the greatest performance of all time, but they give a pretty spectacular one. Their performance, coupled with the history and the building, give you an experience you won’t soon forget.
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