[Met Performance] CID:333000
Don Giovanni {455} Metropolitan Opera House: 09/25/2000.

(Opening Night {116}
Joseph Volpe, General Manager
Debuts: Solveig Kringelborn, Stephen Lawless, Sylvia Nolan, Andrew George
Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
September 25, 2000
Opening Night {116}

Joseph Volpe, General Manager


DON GIOVANNI [455]
Mozart-Da Ponte

Don Giovanni............Bryn Terfel
Donna Anna..............Renée Fleming
Don Ottavio.............Paul Groves
Donna Elvira............Solveig Kringelborn [Debut]
Leporello...............Ferruccio Furlanetto
Zerlina.................Hei-Kyung Hong
Masetto.................John Relyea
Commendatore............Sergei Koptchak

Conductor...............James Levine

Production..............Franco Zeffirelli
Stage Director..........Stephen Lawless [Debut]
Set designer............Franco Zeffirelli
Costume designer........Anna Anni
Costume designer........Sylvia Nolan [Debut]
Lighting designer.......Wayne Chouinard
Choreographer...........Andrew George [Debut]

Don Giovanni received eight performances this season.

New costumes were designed this season by Sylvia Nolan.

Review of John W. Freeman in the December 2000 issue of OPERA NEWS

On opening night at the Met, Bryn Terfel sang Don Giovanni with gentle, winsome, mellifluous tone or iron will, as needed, showing effortless virtuosity of voice and movement.

This season's Met opening (Sept. 25) brought back Franco Zeffirelli's production of "Don Giovanni" with new casting and to some extent a new look. Details of the stage picture have been modified, and the principals got handsome new costumes, designed by Sylvia Nolan. The singers were all strong and individual enough to stand up to Zeffirelli's massive surroundings, and stage director Stephen Lawless (Met debut) steered his characters with grace and continuous motivation. In the opening scene, with Donna Anna having fled for help, the Don unmasked in time for the dying Commendatore to recognize him, a dramatically thoughtful touch. (More questionably, the Don's mask was a death's head - hardly what one would wear to an attempted seduction.) In the pit, James Levine led one of his patented Mozart performances, subtle in blend, supportive in detail, graceful but urgent in flow.

Bryn Terfel, already familiar here for his Leporello, stepped into the title role, enlivening it with artful shadings as well as raw energy. While still comfortable acting as a gentleman - when the Commendatore dropped his sword, Terfel handed it back - this protagonist was no one to meet on a dark night. Only a genuine love of women could lie behind such tender blandishments, and he could lavish them on Zerlina even while dancing a tricky step with her. Amorous appearances aside, the sheer force of his hedonistic impulses, propelled by zest in carrying them out, made this Don not only irresistible but unstoppable, a force of nature against society's safeguards.

In accordance with his view of the character, Terfel sang with gentle, winsome, mellifluous tone (as in his serenade) or iron will (as in refusing to repent even when the statue seized his hand), showing effortless virtuosity of voice and movement. Ferruccio Furlanetto, a Don in his own right, spliced his Leporello to this master, timing ripostes and byplay with comic precision, enunciating with textbook clarity, coloring the vocal line with the right degree of class distinction between aristocrat (however rough) and servant (however clever). Sergei Koptchak gave the Commendatore nobility of bearing and utterance. Paul Groves's clean tenor line and steady, reassuring tone put Don Ottavio in the right framework, and John Relya's Masetto was no bumpkin but an incipient Figaro, well aware of the risk and necessity of standing up for his rights.

Renée Fleming's Donna Anna, a plausible cousin to her Countess in "Le Nozze di Figaro," reacted with a full range of emotion to the Don's temerity and the outrage of her father's death, from which she never recovered. The singer seemed to have an endless supply of rich, silvery tone, but most impressive was how she used it to plumb the depth of a character often seen as simply cold and vengeful. The later scenes found her broken-hearted, suffering inwardly; "Non mi dir," if a bit slow, showed exquisite phrasing and expressive passagework. Likewise, Solveig Kringelborn, in her Met debut, gave Donna Elvira a generous range of feeling. The Norwegian soprano's voice is neither especially large nor colorful, and some of coloratura in "Mi tradì" frayed the edges of pitch, but the preceding recitative showed how much she could do with the shading and pointing of words. An outer layer of archness has worn off Hei-Kyung Hong's Zerlina, leaving a more three-dimensional character who could console Masetto with intimations of warmth. The cast used appoggiaturas in the recitatives, as is generally accepted nowadays, but few in the concerted pieces, and in some - Donna Anna's "Or sai chi l'onore," for instance-their absence seemed anachronistic.

Zeffirelli's stage picture takes its departure from the staggered flats of eighteenth-century theater; at its best, it is Drottningholm writ large. This largeness in itself seems related to the somber, intimidating character of Spanish palaces and churches. The production had a less cluttered look, though the concluding banquet scene, with its huge table and army of servants, still underscores the fact that tradition isn't always right. (At least there were no female extras fawning over the Don.) The graveyard scene now plays much better, except for the fact that Giovanni rudely answers the statue with his back turned, and the framing drops are no longer lifted away for the epilogue - a touch rather to be missed, but admittedly not one consistent with period fidelity.



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