Uruguayan Bass Reprises the Role That Seduced L.A., But He’s Got Mixed Feelings About Don Giovanni
by Julie Riggott
Don Giovanni claims he’s slept with 2,065 women. Erwin Schrott’s not buying it.
“He’s totally a storyteller. I think he’s such a liar, you know?”
Schrott would know about the legendary Latin lover. The opera sensation has been in Don Giovanni’s shoes – and inside his head – on stages in Washington, D.C., Florence, Genoa, Naples, Milan, Valencia and London. But he’s not counting exactly how many performances.
“Why should I count? I am not Don Giovanni. Don Giovanni is the one who counts,” the Uruguayan bass said, laughing.
The 35-year-old Schrott is in demand internationally because his sensual voice, heartfelt acting and good looks make the press rave and crowds swoon. Downtown Los Angeles audiences get a second chance to be seduced as he reprises his role in Mariusz Trelin´ski’s critically acclaimed 2003 L.A. Opera production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni. It opened Saturday at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and continues through Dec. 15.
Critics have exalted Schrott as “a stage animal,” “feral,” “sensual” and “lusty” with “ferocious brutality” in what has become his signature role. Schrott thinks the comparisons are right on.
“I can eat everybody alive,” he said on a day off from rehearsals before the opera’s opening. “Oh, I have to calm myself down, otherwise it’s like an explosion that lasts for three hours. Don Giovanni is a character where you can give all this ferocity and this energy. And I love the stage. Of course I am totally wild when I finally get on the stage – wild with focus and concentration, but wild.”
Schrott, who fell in love with theater the first time he stepped on the stage at age 8 in Uruguay, is so passionate about opera that his life is almost indistinguishable from it. “I spend maybe 330 days inside of the theater. Most of the year that’s where I am. When I’m not there physically, my mind and my soul are still there.”
Schrott played Don Giovanni for the first time when Plácido Domingo invited him to perform with the Washington National Opera. He was 29, and though he had appeared in operas including La Boheme and MacBeth, he was nervous about the invitation to play this title role.
“I was so scared,” he said. “So I finally got into the theater and I started singing the part, and I couldn’t believe it. I was confident. I was feeling fantastic,” he recalled. “The first one that really believed in what I was going to be was Plácido.”
Treli´nski, a Polish movie director who says he tries to inject a “contemporary aesthetic” in his operas, knew he had a find with Schrott.
“Erwin is a very unique person,” he said by phone. “Of course, we know he has a great voice and he is very handsome. But that’s not all. I think he has incredible instincts. His work is very organic. When he’s onstage, the body, the voice and the movement all become one.”
Despite the previous accolades, Schrott and Treli´nski have decided to make some changes in the character this time around, exploring the reflective side of Don Giovanni. “We are trying to tell a new story from the last time that we did it,” Schrott said.
”Don Giovanni is the story of a man who wants to drink all wines of the world. But after a thousand bottles, he realizes everything is very monotonous. He tries to look for new experiences,” Treli´nski explained. “In the end, he provokes his own death, he chooses his death. What I changed in the production is the second part is more introspective, a little deeper.”
Although the character has ignited his career, Schrott finds nothing to envy about the legendary libertine, who, he believes, is incapable of love and disrespects women by playing with their feelings. “He can make women fly with his words. But I think he has the same power with men,” he said. “He doesn’t respect or care about anyone. He laughs at other people’s unhappiness, and that makes him very unhappy” as well as lonely.
For the record, Schrott thinks anyone who talks that much and counts his sexual conquests is very insecure. Which raises the question: How does Schrott, who admits he completely immerses himself in a character’s emotions, play Don Giovanni?
“Maybe inside of me there is a Don Giovanni,” he said. “The fact that every one of us would like to seduce is a totally possible point. We dress up, we brush our hair, put on some makeup, high heels, a nice shirt. We try to get into a nice conversation, using not the basic, elementary words but adding flowers to it just to make the conversation even a little bit more interesting.”
Sporting designer frayed jeans, with a bar piercing through his upper left ear and dark, spiked hair, Schrott could be as charming and seductive as Don Giovanni, sounding like both poet and philosopher as he analyzed his character. But his sensitivity shows a depth Don Giovanni never achieves.
“Love is about being able to give the best of yourself and also to resist the idea of hiding the worst,” he said. Instead, he noted, Giovanni has failed to find love, and the man who has slept with 2,065 women will forever remain “a lonely heart.”
Don Giovanni plays in repertory with La Boheme through Dec. 15 at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, 135 N. Grand Ave., (213) 972-8001 or laopera.com. Performances are Nov. 27 and 30 and Dec. 4 and 7 at 7:30 p.m., Dec. 9 at 8 p.m., Dec. 2 and 15 at 2 p.m., and Dec. 12 at 1 p.m. Tickets start at $20.
Contact Julie Riggott at email@example.com.
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