The Giacomo Variations, starring the always fascinating John Malkovich, kicked off the newly launched Cherry Orchard Festival at City Center last night. The mission of the festival is to introduce and promote global cultural activity and exchange of ideas through performing and visual arts, education programs and events.
And boy, what a kick off with this theatrical extravaganza.
Quite an impressive undertaking The Giacomo Variations is. It’s described as a chamber opera play, because there is a complete orchestra playing Mozart, theatrical dialogue spoken and performed, and various arias sung. Four actors tell the astonishing story of Giacomo Casanova, who shall we just say, lived really large.
The three other international performers are quite accomplished, but this piece is all Mr. Malkovich’s, with his very distinctive speaking voice, his natural seductive qualities, and even his singing(!), that keeps us engaged.
Might you get lost during this performance? Quite possibly, but I promise you will always get back on track. Because although the details may not be clear, the journey of Casanova is always apparent.
Probably the best word to describe this opus is intriguing. It surely made me want to read more about ole Giacomo. Make no mistake, this is a long play. Over 2 and a half hours of Mozart, arias and debauchery. Although the arias are very much integrated into the piece, and the performances quite lovely, I found myself getting slightly irritated each time the actors would begin to sing. I didn’t want the story to stop for the arias. I think I would really have loved The Giacomo Variations if it were just Mozart’s music underlining the text, minus the arias.
By the way, there is a screen way up at the top of the stage for English translations of the arias. Alas, if you sit in the last four rows of the orchestra, you will not see it.
I was in Row M, and had to scrunch down in my seat and tilt my head to properly view the translations. I asked the people behind me if they could see the screen, to which they replied, “what screen?” (Note to directors, always sit in the last seat of the house to view all parts of a production.)
The Giacomo Variations may be thought of as a kind of Mozart musical, unveiling the life of Casanova, who is quoted as writing, “Keep silent. Love is divine and clairvoyant; Love knows everything.”
The Giacomo Variations has just three more performances to go in New York:
May 31 and June 1 at 8 PM and June 2 at 3 PM, followed by dates in Montreal and Toronto.