This is historically possibly the single most central work in the Staatsoper’s repertoire, and the disappointment among the premiere crowd was palpable. Watch out, Herr Meyer, the Stehplatz masses are restless.
Mozart-Da Ponte, Don Giovanni. Wiener Staatsoper, 12/11/2010. New production premiere by Jean-Louis Martinoty, sets by Hans Schavernoch, costumes by Yan Tx, lights by Fabrice Kebour. Conducted by Franz Welser-Möst with Ildebrando d’Arcangelo (Don Giovanni), Alex Esposito (Leporello), Sally Matthews (Donna Anna), Roxana Constantinescu (Donna Elvira), Sylvia Schwartz (Zerlina), Saimir Pirgu (Don Ottavio), Albert Dohmen (Commendatore), Adam Plachetka (Masetto)REMINDER. Follow me on the Twitter!
An article in the Staatsoper magazine trumpets the learned director Martinoty’s consultation of many other Don Giovanni tales (and he name-drops lots of them in the program book interview). I don’t know whether to suggest he should have spent more time with Mozart and Da Ponte’s text or just to note that he obviously hasn’t found his own version yet. Because this is a morally confused, interpretive black hole of an opera, and Martinoty does nothing to suggest who Don Giovanni is, or any of the other characters for that matter. He sticks in some novelties, but there’s no vision or concept to speak of in an opera that demands one.
Fun fact: this is the second production of Don Giovanni I have seen in Vienna that is set in a hotel! But Keith Warner’s Theater an der Wien job was a sleazy, wild masterpiece, which this one isn’t.
While some of the direction is lively and physical, it doesn’t do a very good job of developing the plot or characters or their relationships. Sometimes logic fails. Why doesn’t Leporello react before noting the presence of people in the introduction? What happens in the confusing duel involving a sword umbrella and a flashlight? Why does Donna Elvira have a voodoo doll? Why doesn’t Zerlina look at Don Giovanni during “La cì darem la mano”? What the hell is going on with that statue? But in the big picture everyone seems to like Don Giovanni: he and Donna Anna apparently have a consensual S&M thing going on, Donna Elvira just wants him back (despite voodoo), and even Don Ottavio is a good buddy. And Ildebrando D’Arcangelo’s Don seems like a good guy. He’s friendly, maybe a little aggressive on the romantic side of things, but basically decent. And that doesn’t make for a very interesting show.
|Donna Elvira (Roxana Constantinescu)|
Sorry to say so much, but I feel like I had to to describe everything, because this production doesn’t organize itself into easily-summarized coherence. It doesn’t ever develop any direction or guiding idea. There’s stuff there, but what’s it all about? AAAHHHH! I DON’T KNOW!!!!
Musically, the highlight was the orchestra, which knows this score inside out and can play it without breaking a sweat. But there were some conducting issues. Franz Welser-Möst’s account was more shaped on the orchestral than vocal side, and had coordination issues with the stage. The tempos tended to be odd, and the pacing lacked drama. Unfortunately the singing was accomplished without being memorable. Many of the arias were loud and unsubtle, the ensembles were better. Appoggiaturas were in oddly short supply. I prefer baritone Dons to basses, and while D’Arcangelo was perfectly fine, with a darkish lyric tone, he failed to seduce me. Er, I mean, he’s no Erwin Schrott in the acting department, and didn’t show much in the way of seductive tendencies (and some of us may have found Leporello better-looking, sorry, I’m superficial). I could have also used more vocal floating in the serenade. It takes skills to sing the Champagne Aria and take your shirt off at the same time, though.
|Donna Anna (Sally Matthews)|
I think a few more tech rehearsals would have done this show good. I wondered if someone was writing the lighting cues as they were giving them, because they were that bumpy and randomly timed. Lights would abruptly change in the middle of scenes for no reason, making me suspect a cue was pages late or early. The trip down to Hell went about three times too quickly and started a good two pages too late, severely screwing up the drama. If you’re not going to get this kind of thing right at a new production prima, when are you going to?
There was rather a lot of booing at the end, particularly by generally-friendly Vienna standards, though there was also some enthusiastic cheering. The consensus in the standing room was that it fell short of Wiener Staatsoper standards for both Mozart singing and staging. “It would be OK for Zurich,” one Stehplatz member said. “Or Germany. But in Vienna?” In my experience Zurich and Germany generally come up with something more interesting than this production-wise, but point taken.
We're getting a full Da Ponte cycle from this production team. The Figaro, already seen in Paris and already considered via DVD here, will premiere in February, the Così in two years' time.
Also, typo in the cast list! They misspelled “Masetto” as “Masseto”.
Bows--the statue is not THE statue, it is only A statue: