Manhattan School of Music
New productions of 'Don Giovanni' and 'The Ghosts of Versailles' offer striking connections, historical and dramatic
In spite of the two centuries that separate them, Ghosts and Don Giovanni have much in common, and the chance to hear them in close succession is a boon. Both have noteworthy New York connections: Corigliano is a lifelong New Yorker who was trained at M.S.M. and Columbia; and Lorenzo Da Ponte, Mozart’s Venetian-born librettist, died a New Yorker and a naturalized American citizen in 1838. He was Columbia College’s first professor of Italian literature, and he oversaw the U.S. premiere of Don Giovanni, which took place in New York in 1826.
The British jazz pianist John Escreet lives in a sparsely furnished apartment in Flatbush. He keeps it very tidy, for a 25-year-old. There was, on a recent visit, almost nothing about the appearance of the place that squares with his jazz persona, which produces compositions with titles like “Civilization on Trial” and “Avaricious World."
But then he picks up a book from a stack on the table that sits right beside the upright piano he works on at home. It’s the memoir of a child soldier who fought in Sierra Leone’s bloody civil war. There’s another by a self-described “economic hit man” who claims to have wreaked havoc in third world countries to benefit American corporations. Soon, Escreet is talking about how the escalating tensions between North and South Korea could spark a nuclear war that, he said, might wipe out much of the human race.
“The way people act towards each other right now, it might be for the best,” Escreet said with a shrug. “That’s what’s going to happen in the end anyway. Maybe nuking each other sounds pessimistic. I don’t fully believe that, but ….”