Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Why Write Casanova

At first glance, Giacomo Casanova represents a technically demanding and intellectually daunting character to bring to life on the stage. Casanova’s public stereotype far outshines the significance of his exploits. His adventures took place in an era far removed from our own. And on the subject of himself, Casanova has already written 1.3 million words about his conquests. Known as the most prominent paramour of his time, the greatness of Casanova’s love is not measured in breadth. It is measured in depth. Instead of aspiring to love as many as he, maybe we can learn to love as much. This simple statement gave me my first insight into the character and proved to be a “eureka moment” for my musical journey.

Every story has to begin at the beginning; mine started in a meeting with the charming and effervescent Bill Mooney. Through his assiduous passion and rapier wit, he helped me appreciate the creative possibilities in retelling Casanova’s story. Casanova at Twilight provided a great opportunity to reimagine a familiar archetype. With the help of his delightful wife, Valorie Goodall, we set off on a grand adventure of sex and deceit in 18th century Italy.

After adventuring for some time, I began to realize that Casanova and I were connected in ways I never anticipated. As a composer and lyricist, I found inspiration in Casanova’s witty, scandalous tales of debauchery. They fascinate and titillate. However, Casanova’s true brilliance resides in his autobiography, Histoire de ma Vie. He articulates the intimate details of his life with critical objectivity and a frankness that many others are unwilling or unable to achieve. As his story progresses, Casanova reveals the true depth of his character, his naked soul emerging from page after page of brutal, unapologetic honesty. I try to capture the same feeling of integrity in the music for Casanova at Twilight.

The music is ribald at times, and soothing at others. It bounces capriciously from one idea to the next as Casanova’s mind wonders. Themes from Casanova’s past are often misremembered or misinterpreted, especially when in pursuit of a lovely lady. He never developed a strong understanding of musical technique, so phrases and motifs often fluctuate in style and historical context. It is at once loud and brash, soft and sweet, angry, funny, ugly, and sexy. As with literature, true musical expression can only be achieved through self-reflection and a fearless exploration of the human condition. In this way, Casanova and I are brothers.