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"Don Giovanni" at the Metropolitan Opera

Wersja polska
pl
Author: Gabriela Harvey
 
Gabriela Harvey
Peter Mattei in the title role of Mozart's "Don Giovanni"  photo (c) Marty Sohl / Metropolitan Opera published by opera.info.pl by courtesy of the Metropolitan Opera
Click to magnify

A quick look at the calendar confirmed my fear, only three weeks left in the 2014-2015 MET season. My notes from the Tuesday February 28th performance of “Don Giovanni” are still on my desk. Anticipating at least two “Un Ballo’s” and maybe “Cav and Pag,” and not wanting to disappoint my faithful translator… So, I thought I would tackle this on a beautiful New York City spring weekend…

On Tuesday February 28th the conductor Alan Gilbert was on loan from the Philharmonic next door at Lincoln Center. Mr. Gilbert, it was recently announced, will leave his post as music director of the New York Philharmonic in the summer of 2017. He kept a lively tempo throughout, without sacrificing the lyricism and romanticism of Mozart’s “Don Giovanni.” The orchestra played superbly. Sweden’s baritone Peter Mattei was Don Giovanni, Venezuelan (via Italy) bass-baritone Luca Pisaroni was Leporello, our own bass-baritone James Morris was The Commendatore, tenor Don Ottavio was Russia’s Dmitry Korchak (Met debut), South Africa’s soprano Elza van den Heever was Donna Anna, England’s soprano Emma Bell Donna Elvira, Virginia’s mezzo-soprano Kate Lindsay was Zerlina and Czech Republic’s bass-baritone Adam Plachetka was Masetto.

I know the story, but that evening it hit me hard. I was about to spend hours witnessing the crimes of a serial rapist! Maybe it was Mr. Mattei’s superb portrayal of the…,oops, I almost said rascal… a sociopathic rapist, that added to my “discomfort”! The Met’s production, first directed in 2011 by Michael Grandage, is set in the opera’s own era, but it manages to reflect our time. Perhaps another reason for my epiphany - this opera is all about lust, love, hate, jealousy, murder, revenge, envy, and more…

Luca Pisaroni as Leporello, and Emma Bell as Donna Elvira in Mozart's "Don Giovanni" photo (c) Marty Sohl / Metropolitan Opera published by opera.info.pl by courtesy of the Metropolitan Opera
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And so it begins: we encounter Don Giovanni in the bedroom (Leporello is keeping watch outside) of a noblewoman, Donna Anna who is engaged to Don Ottavio. She manages to fight his advances off.

Her cries for help are heard by her father, the Commendatore. He challenges her disguised assailant. A sword fight ensues. Don Giovanni kills him and manages to escape unrecognized. Donna Anna asks Don Ottavio to avenge her father’s death. Next we “meet’’ Donna Elvira, one of Don Giovanni’s former conquests. Leporello sets her straight, showing her the “catalogue” of all of Don Giovanni’s victims. Masetto and Zerlina’s wedding takes place and Don Giovanni sets his eyes on his next victim … Zerlina. Anna seeks Don Giovanni’s’ help in finding her father’s murderer. Elvira warns all about Don Giovanni. He “declares” her mad and invites all to celebrate the wedding in his house. As he leaves, Anna recognizes his voice as that of the man who attacked her. Again she begs Don Ottavio to avenge her father’s death. Having accepted Don Giovanni’s invitation Masetto and Zerlina (now contrite for not being able to resist the temptation of flirting with Don Giovanni) enter Don Giovanni’s home. Anna, Elvira and Ottavio (all masked) also appear. Don Giovanni tries to distract Zerlina and drag her into another room. She cries out. Anna, Elvira and Ottavio reveal their identity but Don Giovanni manages to slip away. Don Giovanni and Leporallo exchange clothing. Elvira continues to be in love with Don Giovanni despite what she knows. Disguised as his master Leporallo encounters Masetto, (who is looking for Don Giovanni) and a fight ensues. Leporello beats up Masetto and leaves. Zerlina comforts Masetto. Later on, Anna, Elvira, Ottavio, Zelina and Masetto surprise Leporello. Fearing for his life, he reveals his true identity and manages to escape yet again. Don Giovanni and Leporello, escaping to a cemetary/garden, find the tomb of the Commendatore. The statue at the grave speaks to them and asks for repentance. Don Giovanni makes Leporello invite “the ghost” of the Commendatore to join them for dinner. He comes and asks them again to repent. Don Giovanni laughs …and the earth opens and sends him to the flames of Hell.  Anna, Elvira, Ottavio, Zelina, Masetto and Leporallo are left…

Kate Lindsey as Zerlina, Peter Mattei in the title role, and Emma Bell as Donna Elvira  in Mozart's "Don Giovanni."     photo (c) Marty Sohl / Metropolitan Opera published by opera.info.pl by courtesy of the Metropolitan Opera
Click to magnify

On to the music…

In the famous seduction duet between Giovanni and Zerlina, “La ci darem la mano.”  Mr. Matei with his vibrant baritone was very convincing as the seducer of Zerlina, the flirtatious girl with beguiling yet naive innocence. His is  a commanding Giovanni: he towered (literally) over everyone and his performance was charged with the requisite sensuality, sexuality, and devious cruelty. We witnessed the fluidity of his notes when Giovanni attempts to seduce Zerlina. The legato in “La Ci darem La Mano” had an alluring softness. He was the charming seducer in “Deh vieni all finestra,” his serenade to Donna Elvira’s maid. On the other hand the “Fin ch’han dal vino,” (also known as the Champagne Aria), where he reveals his plans to get all the peasant girls drunk and add ten names to his list before dawn, was full of frenzy, revealing Don Giovanni’s zest for life, “at any cost”! His menacing, cruel humor reached its peak at the end of Act II, when he feasts while Leporello looks on…and we mustn’t forget his betrayal of Leporallo after his own attempt to seduce Zerlina.

What a wonderful actor M. Mattei is!

He and Mr. Pisaroni (perhaps the opera’s other leading man?) complemented each other very well. Leporello’s “Madamina, il catalogo è questo” (“Catalog Aria,”) in which he reveals that Don Giovanni has slept with thousands of women, no matter their pedigree…was masterful. Mr. Pisaroni maintained the wide range and fast tempi but also showed off his excellent comic timing. At the end of the aria he was hilarious, balancing his master’s boasting and his own flirting, mocking Dona Elvira. Balancing the comic timing was the terror in the ‘repent or else’ scene, when the statue of the Commendatore comes to dinner. Bravo!

Staying with the men….Making his Met debut, the Russian tenor Dmitry Korchak  was Ottavio. His is a warm and polished voice. His singing has an elegance, beauty and softness. However, he was not without assertiveness in his rendition of “Il mio tessoro,” the beautiful love aria. He proves more a man than the plot implies!

Adam Plachetka (another Met debut) as Masetto , always in Zelina’s shadow, manages to convince us that he puts up with Zerlina’s flirtatious nature and flightiness and, because he truly loves her, outwaits the uncertainty. Both Mr. Korchak and Mr. Plachetka grew stronger as the evening progressed. They stood up to the challenge of their formidable colleagues.

A scene from Mozart's "Don Giovanni" photo (c) Marty Sohl / Metropolitan Opera published by opera.info.pl by courtesy of the Metropolitan Opera
Click to magnify

The veteran James Morris was the Commendatore.  Mr. Morris, whose career spans decades, continues to give us solid performances. It helps that he is a good actor and also that he knows his limitations.

Zerlina’s (Kate Lindsay) two arias sung to Masetto, “Batti, batti” and “Vedrai, carino,” were enchanting. This is where the orchestra was superb, guiding Ms. Lindsay’s bright soprano voice with a light and sweet timbre, in the lyricism of the music. She sang reassuringly about making up and spending their days and nights together, but seductive in “Vedrai, carino,” prescribing the cure, all will be well “if you only rest your hand on my breast” – “Toccami qua!” she sings over and over: “touch me here.” Donna Elvira (Emma Bell) has been rejected by Don Giovanni but continues to have feelings for him. The aria “Mi tradì quell’alma ingrata” occurs late in Act Two, as she sings: “That ungrateful wretch betrayed me, and made me so miserable, oh Lord! He deceived me and abandoned me, yet I can’t help but forgive him.” This is a demanding role. I thought the high notes in: “Ah chi mi dice mai” and the “Ah fuggi il traditor” had a hard edge. I found her a bit harsh and wiry at times and thought she sang an uneven Dona Elvira. In the ensembles she seemed disconnected at times from the others. Perhaps the harshness and/or hard edge was a deliberate attempt to underline the character’s bitterness? In all fairness, she sounded softer and more vulnerable in the “Mi tradì quell'alma ingrate,” where she struggles with her feelings of betrayal and her concern for the one who betrayed her.

Elza van den Heever’s Donna Anna spends much of the opera in a state of mourning. The recitative “accompagnato” with Don Ottavio and the aria that follows, “Or sai chi l’onore,” summarize the character. The music here is thrilling. Her rendition of “Non mi dir,” when she asks Don Ottavio to stop talking about marriage, was a testament to her flawless technique.

This was an evening of masterful conducting, a wonderful orchestra, a solid production and a splendid cast of singers.

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