Order of events: You love music and you’ve been playing the violin for more than 15 years. You’ve never listened to a whole opera in your life (ejem). You’re given the opportunity to be head of the second violins in Mozart’s Don Giovanni opera. You instantly fall in love with this amazing out of this world marvelous awesome astonishing breathtaking stunning spectacular magnificent fascinating exciting [list of synonyms goes on forever] music. You open the doors to a completely new world that makes you love music even more, if that’s still possible.
Before talking about my personal experience, I thought it'd be great to give a very (very) brief summary of the argument of the opera: basically, Don Giovanni is a man who likes to seduce and conquer every woman he encounters on his path, but always screws it up and ends up having to run away. In the end, he’s consumed by the flames as a punishment for his behavior. This opera had a huge impact on other composers such as Beethoven, Chopin, Rossini, Liszt… who were inspired by some of the melodies to create variations on them. Tchaikovsky even said that he was “in the presence of divinity” when he saw the manuscript of Don Giovanni 😳. Fun fact: did you know that Mozart “forgot” to compose the overture to the opera and wrote it on the very same day as the premier? Unbelievable.
What an amazing way to enter the world of opera, don’t you think? Well, I must admit that I was equally excited and scared for being the head of the second violins. It’s such a responsibility for me but at the same time it has helped me gain more confidence in my playing, as I need to be very sure of what I’m doing. After the first couple of rehearsals I started believing that I could really do it, and I’m glad the opportunity came now and not some months ago, when it would certainly have been a party for all my fears and insecurities. Luckily, I’ve been able to identify and work on most of them at this point, so it’s time for me to prove myself that I can face these paralyzing thoughts and get over them.
Besides the enormous personal growth, this project is also nourishing me in a musical way, of course. I’m getting an impression on what it's like to work on such a big production like an opera. Yes, I’m used to playing in orchestras and chamber music groups, but an opera certainly goes much further. Knowing the notes I play is not even half of the work. I needed to read the argument of the opera, listen to it several times (it’s LONG, even if we’re not playing all the numbers it’s almost two hours of music), know what every number is about, what the characters say, who I am playing with… Every number is different from the others in character and tempo, and I find going from one to another quickly really challenging, as I need to imagine the music in my head in terms of seconds to start playing in the right tempo and mood from the very beginning. There's still so much more to discover for me in this opera, but the best thing is that the more I know about it and the more we find out in the rehearsals, the more it fascinates me.
Another very special thing about this project is that it’s going on at a time in which I have lots of doubts on what to do once I finish my Master’s. I thought I had a very clear idea and had my heart and mind settled, but the closer the moment gets, the bigger my hesitations. I remember being in one of the rehearsals and thinking “This feeling, I never want to forget what this feels like”. I got goosebumps all over my body, I was listening to my colleagues, trying to get into their sound as much as possible and literally dancing to the music. It was also the first day that we rehearsed with the singers, and it felt like it all made sense finally. Every part fitted into the puzzle perfectly. I already knew that music is part of who I am, part of my identity and my everyday life, but these days I’m realizing that whatever I do in the future, I never want to forget what playing the violin feels like in my body. The buzz of energy running through my veins, the feeling of belonging to something big, the fortune to be able to appreciate such an unique art, even the nerves that I feel when I go on stage. It’s hard to explain it, but I think part of me is scared that if I take the 'wrong' path I’ll get away from this magical world of playing music. As if there'd be a 'right' and a 'wrong' path…
Anyway, this is getting too emotional and we were talking about how amazing playing this opera is, so let’s get back on track. You’ve probably heard the saying “Where words fail, music speaks”, which basically means that music is a language. I’ve always agreed with this, but working on Don Giovanni makes it crystal clear. It may seem obvious, but the way the music reflects and enhances what happens in the story brings it to another level, making it much stronger. It’s crazy how Mozart shows through music that the characters are angry or in love or seek revenge, not only on the singers’ parts but also through the orchestra. They complement each other in such a way that it’s impossible to understand one without the other. And being aware of that communication between the parts is so cool, because we’re constantly “feeding” each other.
A funny story related to this is that being able to reflect emotions through my playing is one of the things that I struggle with the most. I’m working on it and getting better and better, yet it doesn’t always come up the way I’d like to. Identifying the feelings is not usually the problem, in fact I often find more than an idea for one passage or section, what’s hard for me is to find the way or the tools to reflect those ideas through my violin playing. Some things get lost in translation 😁, but then when I finally find the way to transmit what I want, the whole process is worth it and the result is pure magic. In this sense, playing Don Giovanni is extremely helpful to me, as I find it much easier to react to the music and what the singers say and sing, and how they do it. I’m looking forward to seeing how that will reflect in my violin repertoire!
Come listen to us perform!
🗓️ 23/03/2023, 12:30 - Muziekcentrum Enschede
🗓️ 31/03/2023, 20:00 - Plaskerk Raalte
🗓️ 14/06/2023, 19:30 - Deventer Schouwburg