May 7, 2014

What's Gay About Don Juan?

Today we call a man a "Don Juan" if he's very competent at "getting" women.  It's a complement.

But the original Don Juan was evil, a Spanish nobleman who cruelly manipulated both men and women.

That gives his story an interesting gay subtext.

Take the opera version, Don Giovanni, by Mozart (1787).

Don Giovanni seduces women, not because he enjoys heterosexual acts, but for the fun of seeing them socially destroyed.

Meanwhile his servant Leporello displays no heterosexual interest, but is devoted to Don Giovanni.  Their bond is portrayed as noble.

Don Giovanni has Leporello help him seduce several women, including Elvira, who vows vengeance; Anna, who vows vengeance after he kills her father, the the Commendatore, in a duel; and Zerlina (he distracts her boyfriend by sending Leporello to dance with him).

Leporello almost leaves when Don Giovanni tries to frame him for an attempted rape, but decides to stay.

He is beat up while disguised as Don Giovanni, but decides to stay.

Adding sacrilege to his list of crimes, Don Giovanni orders him to invites a statue of the Commendatore to dinner.  He can't bring himself to do it, so Don Giovanni does.  It shows up at the dinner and drags Don Giovanni to hell.

Only then does Leporello seek a new master.

Directors usually cast Don Giovanni with the hottest baritones they can find,such as Jason Hardy, Erwin Schott, and Simon Keelyside.

Richard Crichton produced a modernized version, with a gay Don Giovanni in the club scene of 1987 London.

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