A strong, if not perfect, production of one of the operatic greats
If I were to compile a list of operatic masterpieces Don Giovanni would definitely be up there. I have always been captivated by its dark, complex story, the vivid titular character of Don Giovanni and Mozart's wonderful music. And this production is a strong and worthy one, though not on the same level as the 1979 Losey film, the 1987 Karajan, 1990 Met, 2000 Met and 1954 Furtwangler productions. It does have flaws, Anna Caterina Antonacci does start off a little tense and shaky at the start but the biggest flaw was the costumes, some are decent but especially in Act 2 a lot of them are weird, especially with Donna Anna and the emphasis on Leporello's clownishness. The rest of the production though is fine.
Visually, apart from the costumes, it is not bad at all. The sets have a utilitarian design to them but they are also beautiful. The staging manages to maintain the humour and tension of the opera effectively, the Catalogue aria is witty and the final Commendatore scene is genuinely scary. A great job is done also with Giovanni and Leporello's relationship, this is the most important relationship of Don Giovanni and I was more than satisfied here. The video directing is unobtrusive and captures the action on stage very well, while the picture quality is clear.
Musically, I was thrilled to bits. With the orchestral playing, you do sense Mozart's wit and character but also the opera's darkness and complexity. Riccardo Muti's conducting has lots of driven energy yet the tension is conveyed just as well. His textural balances, musicality and phrasing are as ever impeccable. The sound quality is appropriately sharp and not too soft-grained.
Carlos Alvarez is excellent as the Don. I have always loved his burnished baritone, and he as ever sings splendidly, the Serenade is sung with great sensitivity and the Champagne aria is inviting and the agility is better than you'd expect. He also convinces as a charming yet devilish seducer, and the idea to have Giovanni as not just a seducer but an aristocrat who treats everybody around him as his toys for amusement and pleasure was one that paid off wonderfully. Ildebrando D'Arcangelo's Leporello is every bit as effective. He is handsome, bumbling, funny and cunning all in thrilling measure with great comic timing and a beautiful voice. His Catalogue aria rendition is sung with vitality and brings out the humour of the aria very well. He and Alvarez work wonderfully together.
Adrianne Pieczonka is Donna Anna and her performance is right on the money. She succeeds in making the character sympathetic and fiery, making the revenge against her father's murderer very believable. Her singing is as ever marvellous, her runs are agile and her high notes flow here with effortless beauty. Non Mi Dir is particularly well sung. Michael Schade is one of the better Don Ottavios I've come across. Of recent years, Piotr Beczala was the one who made the biggest impression on me, while one of my personal favourites is Gosta Winbergh in the Karajan performance. Schade sings with a sweet and honeyed tone that I find appealing for Mozartian tenors, he copes better than most with the runs of Il Mio Tesoro but it was Dalla Sua Pace where he sold himself. And he makes a thankless character charming and involved if occasionally resorting to too many heroics.
Zerlina is sung by Angelika Kirschlager and I loved her from when she first appeared. She is charming and adorable without being too wan, she looks gorgeous and she sings beautifully with Batti Batti wonderfully passionate. La Ci Darem La Mano shows affecting chemistry also with Alvarez. Unfortunately I found Lorenzo Regazzo the weak link. For my tastes, his voice did sound rough at times and I would have preferred a less stereotypical approach to the role. That said, he is handsome and his rapport with Kirschlager is also not too bad.
The Elvira of Anna Caterina Antonacci takes some time to warm up with her entrance aria Ah Chi Mi Dice Mai rather tense. Mi Tradi is superb though, very thrilling. She does have a beautiful voice, and effectively shows Elvira's spite, sympathy and heart. Franz-Josef Selig is an imposing Commendatore with a cavernous black-sounding voice perfect for the role and his final scene.
Overall, a strong Don Giovanni, but not quite great enough to be one of my favourites. 7.5/10 Bethany Cox
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