Monday, October 31, 2011

Don Giovanni in HD

Don Giovanni............Mariusz Kwiecien
Donna Anna..............Marina Rebeka
Don Ottavio.............Ramón Vargas
Donna Elvira............Barbara Frittoli
Leporello...............Luca Pisaroni
Zerlina.................Mojca Erdmann
Masetto.................Joshua Bloom
Commendatore............Stefan Kocán

Conductor...............Fabio Luisi
Production..............Michael Grandage

One of my long time wishes came true in the Live from the Metropolitan in HD broadcast of Don Giovanni on Saturday. I have always wished for a very sexy and aware Zerlina, one who truly meant "vorrai e non vorrai" [I want, and I don't want], where you could see it in her eyes. I wanted to feel the moment when she pauses and finally says "andiam." [we go]  I wanted the vision of her full participation in the seduction. I got her in Mojca Erdmann's Zerlina. She was perfect.

This was an excellent production for a number of reasons. Don Giovanni is hard to stage unless you just bail on the whole thing and stick with a bare stage. The scene is constantly shifting. In this production the stage pictures were pleasing and moved smoothly and easily from scene to scene. This version by Michael Grandage was very comprehensible and well thought out. And the death scene was the best ever.

The cast was well matched, but I felt that the Leperello of Luca Pisaroni stole the show from Mariusz Kwiecien [pronounced KVEE-chen, according the the New York Times, although Renée Fleming seemed to be saying something slightly different] as the Don. Mariusz has a pretty face so we forgive him the dastardly deeds. He showed no effects of his back crisis of only two weeks ago.

The rest of the cast, which included Barbara Frittoli and Ramon Vargas, was also excellent. Vargas is a wonderful singer, but I hated the fact that he sang his whole first aria sotto voce. Sotto voce is a stunt, something done only for a specific effect, and not real singing at all. More than a single phrase is too much. This is a recent phenomenon, and I refuse to just give in and ignore it. It must be weeded out.

Fabio Luisi conducted from the harpsichord where he played the secco recitatives. He explained in the intermission that it is easier for him to keep the music flowing from the harpsichord. Everything worked together to create a Don Giovanni of incredible dramatic effectiveness.

[See Kinderkuchen History 1780-1803]


Paul said...

I thought this was an excellent production, and very well sung. I'm glad the director chose to keep the scene in "proper times" rather than modernizing it, as we'll experience later this season with "Faust" and "La traviata."

I'm more convinced than ever that Mozart hated tenors...or, at least, he had no concept of how to write for their voice. When a singer as talented as Ramon Vargas has trouble making an aria sound decent, you know it has to be something other than the performer. The leaps to the upper register were strained (maybe that's why he tried the sotto voce approach), a highly unusual result for someone of his skill level. After all, remember what a great job he did as Lensky a couple of seasons ago?

Dr.B said...

We had Vargas for Werther, too, and I thought he was great. We are suspecting the conductors for this.