Don Giovanni—With a Surrealist Twist

At Pitti Uomo, Fornasetti put an artful twist on the opera

Let’s be honest—if you went to you friend’s house to drink a bottle of wine and watch a movie, you’d probably be a bit miffed if they picked a foreign film with subtitles. Then, if upon pressing play, the movie actually had no subtitles so you couldn’t understand the dialogue at all, you would expect your friend to give up and throw on the rom-com you originally anticipated. If your friend told you that, yes, you wouldn’t understand a single word, that the acting was akin to a trashy telanovella, but the singing was impeccable, you’d think they were pulling your proverbial leg. For me though, that is what the opera is. Unless it’s in English (most of them aren’t) or it’s at a theater with individual electronic subtitles in the back of every seat (The Metropolitan Opera House, NYC), I just don’t see the draw. But brava, Fornasetti! For three hours during a special event at Pitti Uomo, I was enthralled, even as a unilingual English speaker listening to Italian. The opera was presented by the esteemed Italian arts company who also created the sets, which were breathtaking. Don Giovanni, one of the most performed operas of all time and written by one Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, had such electric energy that while I can sometimes be seen in a theater near you taking a rather expensive nap, this occasion found me at the edge of my seat. That classic Fornasetti female face, animated and larger-than-life behind the opera’s actors, or a bright, shining Fornasetti sun, or surrealist imagery like the sketches of M.C. Escher, or the black and white photography of Salvadore Dali stunned me entirely. I did read the synopsis on my cell phone during the performance, but in my defense, I had the brightness turned down low and kept the phone close. No one seemed to mind. Next time I will read the storyline first, but since Florentine folk are so friendly, I was able not only to enjoy the world-class vibrato and the dazzling sets, but to follow the storyline too, and let me tell you—it was juicy.

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