Bass-baritone Seth Carico is one of the world's most complete artists. His work defines an integrity of performance that rocks opera houses across the globe. This Chattanooga mountain boy lives in Berlin.
His repertoire is vast, and his portrayals are memorable. He's added a number of fierce roles in recent seasons at Deutsche Oper Berlin, including Don G's henchman, Leporello.
In AMPED UP's exploration of Mozart's infamous Don we asked Seth for his thoughts on one of opera's most underestimated characters.
SC: Don Giovanni is a sociopath. Not in a sexy operatic way, but in a nihilistic, borderline suicidal way. This is a man who has experienced everything, but I believe he has never actually derived any pleasure from these experiences. He is going through the motions of the part he is playing in society.
There is a reason serial killers can be so prolific. They are charming, and they have a unique skill at pretending to be the person everyone wants them to be. That is the case with Giovanni. He doesn't enjoy anything. Everything in life is empty for him, but he knows that viewpoint will get him nowhere in the public eye, so he plays the part of the libertine. He is trying to fill that emptiness, and that is why he sleeps with so many women. We can argue that pleasure is the driving force, and he is doing all these things purely because he enjoys them, but I don't think that argument even comes close to explaining such an overwhelming appetite.
Nobody would do these things to such an absurd degree and still enjoy them, so why would he continue to push himself past the point of pleasure? He is completely empty and cold inside, and he is trying to find whatever he can to make him feel something, anything. He shoves food and drink in his mouth in the last scene, and I think he finds some kind of enjoyment in the sickness that comes after his overconsumption, since that pain somehow triggers endorphins in his brain, the only sensation he can latch on to. If he actually cared about anything, he would probably be directly suicidal, but his complete lack of emotion prevents him from taking his own life.
He has attempted every possible experience but one, and now for the first time, he crosses that line and takes the life of another person. There is a switch that flips in his brain at that point, right in the first scene in the opera, and all the events that come after are a part of his endgame. He has given up on the pretense of being a functioning member of the human race, and he is embracing his sociopathic drive to end the emptiness within him. But yet again, since he is incapable of ending the pain at his own hand, he his racing through the city in a mad dash, trying to provoke whomever he can to end it all for him.
We have a tendency, based I think on old fashioned thinking, to want to make him a sympathetic character. "Oh, that roguish, handsome womanizer," we want to say, in order to enjoy the performance of a dashing baritone in a beautiful costume, but for me we shouldn't have sympathy for this character. In my ideal view of him, he will be so repellant, the audience wants his terror spree to be over as fast as possible. There should be a large element of discomfort involved for those watching the story play out.
Actually, I don't really feel sympathy for any of the characters. The other noble characters in the story are all representations of some of the worst elements of their level in society. Donna Anna is the spoiled child who cannot deal with the fact that she is, for once in her life, not getting her way. Don Ottavio is so narcissistic, he is completely incapable of acting, due to his unwillingness to risk cracks in his public perception. On a side note, I heard once about a performance in a school somewhere in which Ottavio sang "Il mio tesoro" looking at himself in a hand mirror. I loved that idea! Anyway, the lower class characters are no better. Zerlina's character flaws are pretty obvious. Haha. Masetto is jealousy and unchecked masculine anger personified.
I could write a hundred pages about Leporello, especially since his is the character I prefer to play, but he takes his personal identity from those around him, rather than having the courage to be himself.
Actually, now that I think about it, I said there are no sympathetic characters, but Donna Elvira may just be the only one. She is a true victim, unlike all the others, and she is desperately trying to right the wrongs done to her, but the society she lives in will not allow it. That's why she is often viewed as such a ridiculous, funny character. The "normal" world that exists in this story is so absurd, that the truly normal behavior displayed by Elvira is now viewed as absurd. Anyway, I've gone on way too long, and I could go on a lot longer, but I'll leave you here, and I look forward to hearing how crazy people think I am for applying such a dark view to these characters. I know we really like the idea of dashing, sexy Giovanni, but we've seen it a million times. Let's try something a little more honest :)
For more information on this talented singer, check out his website www.sethcarico.com. And don't hesitate to read his NEW blog: www.sethcarico.com/blog.