“Michael Sturminger, give me your opera, theater, musicals,” I would have easily said plagiarizing Emma Lazarus at the end of The Giacomo Variations, whose much too short run ended yesterday at City Center. This chamber opera play is a successful mesh of opera and theater, and this New York production starring John Malkovich was as heavenly as a night with Casanova might have been: opening the door to paradise, even if for only 150 minutes.
John Malkovich of Valmont fame “Liaisons Dangereuses” brought to us a dying Giacomo Casanova, and as Giacomo faced his last moments of tender and painful memories so did we. The ever consummate thespian, John Malkovich shared the night with the marvelous voices of Daniel Schmutzhard and Sophie Klussmann, and especially the Orchester Wiener Akademie, conducted by a maverick whose musicians never upstaged the singers, including Mr. Malkovich in the excruciatingly painful Don Giovanni final aria, “Deh, vienni alla finestra.”
Written and directed by Michael Sturminger, with music overseen by Martin Haselböck, The Giacomo Variations builds on arias from Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Le nozze di Figaro, and Cosi fan tutte. But, its hero is Casanova’s life so, The Giacomo Variations needs to be experienced without any prejudice, in much the same way a lover of Giacomo should have experienced the man once the lovemaking decided. And just in case you think about seeing this jewel, remember that one certainly couldn’t expect to become a Casanova conquest and achieve self-righteousness, so DO NOT read Ben Brantley’ review for The New York Times because he attempted that very impossibility, and missed on a rare opportunity to be entertained.
For Malkovich fans:
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THE POTHOLE VIEW
Sneaking into Paradise with John Malkovich