No doubt the most famous portrayal of Don Juan is Mozart’s and Da Ponte’s opera, Don Giovanni. It is a brilliant and gorgeous opera that I first saw in New York at Lincoln Center. Kirkegaard, the famous philosopher tried to make the case that Don Giovanni was the most sublime piece of art ever created. His reasoning is somewhat hard to follow (at least for me); I was never much of a philosopher. Nonetheless, the opera is definitely a work of great genius. But one thing is for sure: the Don Juan portrayed is a villain to the end, as he was in Tirso’s portrayal. Before the curtain practically rises, Don Juan has raped a woman and murdered her father. Male desire can certainly be villainous, but it can be heroic and certainly multi-dimensional. I was interested in exploring a much more complex Don Juan and understanding of passion in the Lost Diary. Literary talk show host Michael Krasny asked if it was a “vindication of Don Juan.” I’m not sure I would call it a vindication, but I certainly would call it a redemption and transformation of Don Juan. So it was particularly gratifying when I received an email from the acclaimed opera singer, Franco Pomponi, saying that he was preparing to sing the title role in Don Giovanni in France this summer. I will include his email here in its entirety because I think it is a marvelous example of how the arts can influence each other—and also because he says some very nice things about The Lost Diary.
"I went to B&N to look up information and research material for the next role I will be singing, a new production of "Don Giovanni". As soon as I walked through the doors there was your novel. I was at first hesitant since I was looking for something "scholarly" but then I went with this synchronicity and also with the desire to see how the Don Juan myth is being perceived by new artists.
I could not have asked for a better resource book. Your insight into the period, intrigues, sights, smells, tastes of Seville as well as the psychological and emotional aspects of Don Juan have offered me a wonderful palate to use as I sing this great, and complex, character again. So often, bad translations, traditions and old operatic convention have made this one of the most difficult operas to pull off with success. I think He has survived so long, even through every travesty, because we all know, at a subconscious level, He offers that question you so marvelously paint in you novel. What is this thing "desire"?
Even though the story is quite a bit different, if the "truths" are there, I can, like a painter, layer one idea over another as is the case with the opera version of Hamlet, which has a many differences from Shakespeare but is still searching for, in my opinion, those truths.
My only hope is I can use some of what you have painstakingly researched, brilliantly animated, and shared with this reader. I can tell you, I already have a deeper, richer, understanding of this complex character that lies within all of us. Thank you and much success."
One of my teachers in college said that the recognition of ones peers (even in this case in a different genre) is the true measure. I continue to be extremely humbled by his words and have a great desire to see his portrayal. The stories of Da Ponte/Mozart and The Lost Diary are indeed quite a bit different, and I will be fascinated to see how he layers in the more human Don Juan with this daemon that Da Ponte created and into whom Mozart breathed music. Yes, I believe that the myth of Don Juan and the archetype of passion that lives within us are large enough for many portrayals of the villainy and heroism of human desire.