From the misogynistic Don Giovanni to the heteronormative Calamity Jane, Australian theatre-makers are meeting new ways into problematic texts
When Opera Queensland’s Don Giovanni opens next week, dozens of ordinary wives- old-fashioned and young, big and small- will appear naked on stage.
The nude display- representing the” avenging ferocities” who, in the opu, drag the ghastly Giovanni to his death- is not a advertisement stunt, claims the director, Lindy Hume( although the press won’t hurt ). It is about reenacting female retribution and empowering women. Women who after centuries of misrepresentation, repression and self-restraint in the performing arts are finally claiming the soapbox as their own.
And yet Mozart’s Don Giovanni- a work of musical genius- is a problematic play: its protagonist, after all, is a serial womaniser and a rapist. Like many operas, most to be prepared by dead white humankinds, it has deep misogynistic undercurrents , not to mention brutal ferocity and aggression directed towards its female attributes. The product raises the issue: how should we address the classics in the wake of the #MeToo movement? More controversially, should we be putting them on at all?
Opera and musicals from decades gone by are specially vexing: the former are unashamedly grisly and sensationalist, often at the expense of women; the latter can hide deeply dated positions within upbeat feel-good tunes and supposed happy finishes. Both are highly subsidised, involving large-scale casts and even larger budgets.
Opera Queensland’s artistic director, Patrick Nolan, doesn’t believe we should be driven by fear when exploring such thorny narrations, but we should use them instead to interrogate our own values and assumptions.
” If by’ problematic’ we entail complex stories that are full of minds that stimulate us to be considered the course we connect with one another, the direction we understand action, the nature of relations between men and women, the lane power is used in interpersonal, societal, political contexts- then yes, Don Giovanni is a problematic opu ,” Nolan says.
” Why tackle it? Because the stage is a space in which we can look at these theories, questioning the motivations behind[ them ].”
It is a mantra that Jack Symonds, the artistic administrator of the Sydney Chamber Opera, also abides by. This year, the SCO’s The Rape of Lucretia divided reviewers and audience alike. As the title intimates, Benjamin Britten’s 1946 “problem” opera features a brutal assault: this time of the chaste Lucretia who, in disgrace and panicking ostracism from her peers, kills herself. The general thrust of the cocksure, brash libretto is summed up with paths such as:” All girls are whores by nature .”
Read more: https :// www.theguardian.com/ stage/ 2018/ oct/ 09/ queer-the-leads-and-unleash-the-nudes-how-to-reboot-a-sexist-classic-for-the-metoo-age