For those unaware, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s opera “Don Giovanni” premiered in Prague in 1787 at the Estates Theatre. Lesser known, but by my standards just as noteworthy, was the debut of the marionette version at the National Marionette Theatre in 1991 (more than 4,500 shows to date and counting!). In full disclosure, I do have a striking love of opera and a distinct fascination with marionettes, but this is a hidden gem in Prague which I would highly recommend to anyone, even those who don’t share the same interests.
I will refrain from any spoilers, despite it being a centuries-old opera, and instead focus on what to get excited for. Prepare yourself for a sharp-looking cast of 12 puppets and special appearances by actors of the human variety as well. Because they are marionettes, the wooden puppets are controlled by four strings above their heads, two for moving their legs, and two for moving their arms. The human cast that pulls their strings wears velvet sleeves on their forearms, as their arms peek out from above the stage.
Look forward to a comical moment preceding each act by the ever-charismatic marionette Mozart who knows just how to draw the crowd’s attention. (Admittedly, his job as a conductor is quite easy since all of the music in the opera is pre-recorded, blaring from the speakers on either side of the stage.) Get ready for bubbles, fog and some spritzes of water (yes, the first few rows should be regarded as a splash zone).
Brace yourself for the interplay of one of the more raunchy operas unveiled in a form of theater that is almost childlike, dare I say, expressing itself through moments of humor where marionettes are flung about by the mysterious hands peeking out from above. And it all unfolds on a stage with the same velvety red curtain and orchestra pit setup you’re used to in traditional opera performances, just shrunk down a few sizes.
As for a few more technical things, it should be noted that there are no subtitles, so if your Italian isn’t up to par then take a quick glance at a plot summary prior to attending (even though I can guarantee you will be laughing even if you don’t know what’s going on!). The tickets, while slightly expensive by Prague’s standards, are discounted for students and, in my opinion, well worth it. All in all, a night I won’t forget and that I have told countless friends and family about already. The only question that remains is: Aria ready?!
Photo Credits: Sarah Jackson