Malkovich plays Casanova and sings on Vienna stage

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For the second time in two years, Hollywood actor John Malkovich appears on the Vienna stage as an egocentric womaniser... but this time in an opera, where he gets to show off his singing chops.



In "The Giacomo Variations," an opera-cum-play which had its world premiere Wednesday evening at Vienna's Ronacher theatre, Malkovich plays an ageing Casanova searching for the meaning of life.

"It's a genre between genres," writer and director Michael Sturminger told AFP ahead of the premiere.

This is Malkovich's second collaboration with the Austrian creative team of Sturminger and conductor Martin Haselboeck.

In 2008, they presented "The Infernal Comedy," an extended monologue coupled with operatic interludes, in which Malkovich played Jack Unterweger, a real-life Austrian serial killer convicted in 1994 of murdering nine prostitutes.

Unlike their previous project, "The Giacomo Variations" is much more operatic.

And even Malkovich has lent his voice to it, performing airs from Mozart's operas "Don Giovanni," "Cosi Fan Tutte" and "The Marriage of Figaro," alongside baritone Florian Boesch, with whom he alternates in the role of Casanova.

Their Lithuanian co-star Ingeborga Dapkunaite - who appeared in films like "Mission Impossible" and "Seven Years in Tibet" - also sings a few arias, rivalling with soprano Sophie Klussmann in various female roles.

For Haselboeck, this piece - performed in English - has something for everyone, with its opulent costumes and rich sets, made accessible with popular operatic airs and a Hollywood actor.

"People who know Mozart, who know opera, will find many new ideas here. The others, a colourful opera piece with lots of costumes, lots of ambience," he said.

Even in English, the essentially German-speaking audience could expect an unusual experience.

"The story of Casanova's life is so clear and there are such beautiful images that you can experience an incredible deal, even without understanding a word," Haselboeck said confidently.

"I think that even one who does not understand English can get a lot out of it."

The premiere on Wednesday was in any case greeted with bravos and loud applause from the audience.

After a five-day run in Vienna, "The Giacomo Variations" will move on to Sydney before touring through Europe over the summer, via Germany, Luxembourg, Russia, France and Finland.