Good modern production and well-performed but not without its flaws
This Don Giovanni had a lot of potential, mainly because of Simon Keenlyside, Piotr Beczala and Malin Hartelius. On the most part it is good but there are other ideas that are left wanting.
Visually, it is a modern production, but mostly it actually works. The sets, almost like being in a nightclub, are atmospheric and not too sordid, I particularly liked the use of lighting and the subtly moving curtains, while the costumes suit the characters well. Giovanni looks dapper and seductive as he should do. The staging is also not bad, you don't see the injected and sometimes overdone symbolism included in other European productions I have come across which is a good thing. The trio of the Masks is very interestingly staged with glasses instead of masks, and the Commendatore scene is hair-raising. There are however two touches that come across as questionable. The ensemble entrance of Zerlina and Massetto doesn't work in this setting, the whole point of this moment- pretty much a peasant song and dance piece- is much more convincing in a traditional setting. Also, the use of disrobing women in Ottavio's Dalla Sua Pace really takes away from the beauty of the music.
Musically, it is fine. The orchestral playing is very well done. It is full of energy in the Champagne Aria. It proves to be sensitive in accompaniment and sense of storytelling in the recitatives. And the beginning of the Overture and the final Commendatore scene have the darkness of complexity of mood they ought to. The beautiful wind passages, such as in Il Mio Tesoro are beautifully played and the strings are stylish and densely textured when needed. The conducting is suitably buoyant and phrases Mozart's music intelligently. Albeit with one exception, Leporello's Catalogo aria. It is tediously slow and feels like it is going on forever. That way the humour of the aria is lost.
On the whole, the performances are great. I was a little mixed though on the Donna Anna of Eva Mei. She certainly has the power for the role, which is the second most difficult soprano role after Konstanze from Die Entfuhrung Aus Dem Serail, but with a very wide vibrato which makes some of her runs rather laboured and smudged not the flexibility. I will give her credit and say her Or Sai Chi L'Onore is beautifully sung. In regard to her acting, I thought she conveyed the sympathetic part of Donna Anna very well, but at the same time there was not enough fire which makes her vengeful motivations not as convincing as they ought. Simon Keenlyside is perhaps a little too casual in the ensembles, which does dilute the tension at times, but sings with great virility and sings and acts with intent. He is handsome and charming but also with a menacing and arrogant streak. While his Champagne aria is full of vitality, it was his seductive Deh, Vieni Alla Finestra where he was at his best.
Anton Scharinger has a deep and very resonant bass-baritone voice, that also handles the buffo parts of the role with character. I do like how his voice contrasts with the somewhat lighter one of Keenlyside. He is a terrific actor as well, his Leporello is hilarious but Sharinger never plays him as too much of a buffoon. Malin Hartelius for me was the best of the female singers. She has a beautiful and as ever expressive voice and manages to sing with great style and pathos. She is spiteful(at times) yet charming, providing the opera's heart wonderfully, and you can see clearly through Hartelius that Elvira is drawn to and repulsed by Giovanni. In the somewhat thankless role of Ottavio, Piotr Beczala like with the 2006 Salzburg production is outstanding, he is commanding and sings with honeyed lyricism and great control of the runs. Dalla Sua Pace is moving- I just wish the staging was better- and Il Mio Tesoro, one of the highlights of the production, has the flexibility and breath support it needs.
Reinhard Mayr shows Massetto's anger and jealousy convincingly and sings handsomely. His rapport with Martina Jankova does have purpose and intensity. Jankova has a warm and very spunky presence as Zerlina, and her rendition of Batti Batti is lively and commanding in a way that you do get a sense that she has a hold over Mayr's Masetto. This is helped by her brightly-tuned and agile soprano voice. Alfred Muff sings more powerfully than I have ever heard him, his singing is dark and resonant and his stage presence is terrifying. He is not the best Commendatore I have heard or seen but he is a very good one.
In conclusion, a good solid performance of an operatic masterpiece. 7/10 Bethany Cox
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