Thursday, July 8, 2010

Dear Lord, not another concept Don Giovanni!

That's what I said to myself on July 6 when we went to the Bavarian State Opera again. I adore Don Giovanni, and it's difficult to ruin it for me. (You can compare my thoughts on a very low-budget semi-professional production as compared to a production at the Met here and here.) This was a production from last year, revived for the Opernfestspiel. Here (scathing) and here (scathinger) are reviews from the premiere. There is also a long list of reviews in German that I have neither the time nor the inclination to translate.

It turns out I've seen bits of this production online. Here is a mention at Barihunks, complete with video showing Erwin Schrott as Don Giovanni, Alex Esposito as Leporello and Maija Kovalevska as Donna Elvira. (Mariusz Kwiecen originated the role in this travesty production, and sang it the at the performance I witnessed.)

Let me say this: I loved all the singing. I would have fallen for Mariusz Kwiecen's "La ci darem la mano" in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, and his singing throughout was quite beautiful. Alex Esposito was terrific as Leporello, and I want to have Anja Harteros's baby. I've never heard a better sung "Non mi dir", and she sang the ball-buster role of Donna Anna beautifully throughout. (You want a real thrill? Check out her Elettra arias on YouTube.) As Zerlina, Laura Tatalescu was much, much more than the "adequate" one of the reviews I link above gave her, and as Masetto, Levente Molnár was charmingly blustery but good hearted, and his singing, too, was beautiful. There wasn't a dud in the bunch.

I discussed my feelings on updated or "concept" settings of traditional operas in my review or Roberto Devereux a few days ago. There has to be a clear rationale for it to work, and I could make out none in this production. For operas of this sort, class distinctions or a power structure have to be clear, and I saw none. Why Leporello remained a hanger-on to Don Giovanni in this production is a mystery only his shrink or his NA sponsor can divine. Given the setting of a railyard, with rail cars/storage containers moving hither and yon as scenery, opening to show this room or that, the only social system I can think of with any kind of corresponding power structure might be a gang, but that didn't seem to be the case. At least in the production of Roberto Devereux, one knew what the production team was trying to accomplish. Here, that was simply not so. It all seemed so arbitrary.

Following is a list of things I don't ever wish to see again in an opera:
  • Penguins
  • People doing modern-day dance moves to common practice era opera tunes (It was true of the break dancers I saw in Faust in 1996 in Berlin and it's certainly true of the go-go girls in this production.)
  • Any kind of literal representation of the concept we're all born naked and alone and will die that way that includes someone naked and alone
  • Hiking boots
  • Did I mention the penguins?

Edit 7/17: I feel horrible that I failed to mention the very fine Don Ottavio, Pavol Breslik. I don't know why I would completely block from my memory a handsome, young, highly skilled opera singer who is enjoying great success throughout Europe singing Mozart and bel canto tenor roles. What's that about? In any case, you will find many examples of his fine singing on YouTube, and here is another look at the beautiful Herr Breslik.


David said...

Sounds like a great cast, but maybe enjoyed more with eyes closed due to such a crappy production. Why is it that so many directors seem to hate opera? I don't know, this is sort of like drawing a mustache on the Mona Lisa, or worse, a penguin. Speaking of penguins, what the hell were they doing in Don Giovanni?

Fun reading your reviews from Germany! Have a beer or two for me! PROST! :-)

Anonymous said...

I feel as if I'd been there with you, but am glad I wasn't.

Why do they need to do this? Why can't they let the music and story just be themselves?

(mikey from lj here btw - won't accept my ljaccount for some reason)