[Met Performance] CID:350447
Don Giovanni {463} Metropolitan Opera House: 12/27/2002.

(Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
December 27, 2002


DON GIOVANNI {463}
Mozart-Da Ponte

Don Giovanni............Dmitri Hvorostovsky
Donna Anna..............Barbara Frittoli
Don Ottavio.............Michael Schade
Donna Elvira............Carol Vaness
Leporello...............Richard Bernstein
Zerlina.................Rebecca Evans
Masetto.................Oren Gradus
Commendatore............Eric Halfvarson

Conductor...............Sylvain Cambreling

Production..............Franco Zeffirelli
Stage Director..........Stephen Lawless
Stage Director..........Gregory Keller
Set Designer............Franco Zeffirelli
Costume Designer........Anna Anni
Costume Designer........Sylvia Nolan
Lighting Designer.......Wayne Chouinard
Choreographer...........Andrew George

Don Giovanni received thirteen performances this season.

Revival gift of the Sybil B. Harrington Trust.

Production photos of Don Giovanni by Beatriz Schiller/Metropolitan Opera.

Review of David J. Baker in the April 2003 issue of OPERA NEWS


Metropolitan Opera productions of the repertory staples are not allowed to fail. At worst they are recycled, retrofitted and put back into service. The 1990 "Don Giovanni" directed and designed by Franco Zeffirelli is now a series of top-heavy, monumental Zeffirelli sets filled with other contributors' costumes and staging, and this revival (seen Dec. 27) offered a new cast and conductor.

Stephen Lawless's fussy direction, new in the 2000-2001 season, harping on the theme of sexuality and seduction, keeps the characters in close physical contact, groped or groping and sometimes sprawled on the ground. The staging also emphasizes the Don's invincibility, intentionally or not. Not just irresistible to women, he also seems, like a comic-book superhero, untouchable. The confused and apparently botched conclusion to Act I left him fully exposed to the pursuing crowd and yet never touched. In the ventriloquist serenade to Elvira in Act II, Giovanni is apparently invisible as well, since he stands beside the disguised, gesticulating Leporello, in the lady's direct line of vision.

Baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky comes to the role of Don Giovanni with impressive credentials: a vivid stage manner, youthful bearing and a mellow vocalism that, in his Verdi roles, now manages a nice ping. If these gifts fail to coalesce into a convincing portrait of the Don, some fault surely lies with the distracting stage business that keeps him fumbling with props (mask, sword, dagger, ring, apple, purse, bottle, food and a scrim that failed to descend before the Act I curtain). This Don usually looked more worried about his next stunt than intent on his personal pleasure.

His portrayal alternates between discomfort and nastiness, with no mitigating charm except vocally. He excelled at seductive cantilena in a highly charged "LÓ ci darem la mano" and an unusually slow Act II serenade. Hvorostovsky was upstaged, unfortunately, by the irrepressible, forcefully sung Leporello of Richard Bernstein, who reduced the Don to the rank of straightman in most of their encounters.

The musical performances offered further compensations. French conductor Sylvain Cambreling showed firm grasp of a score that many locals think belongs to James Levine. The overture told much of the tale: extreme contrasts, a quasi-Romantic approach, communicated in a restless, markedly interventionist podium style. While accommodating to singers, especially in slower lyrical passages, Cambreling kept the orchestral accompaniment interesting by emphasizing secondary lines and individual instruments. If the dry recitatives tended to drag, there was ample force and volume in the damnation scene.

Veteran Mozartean Carol Vaness was a vivid, extreme Elvira, who did everything but take a bite out of Leporello's catalogue. The role of Zerlina suits Rebecca Evans well, especially since so much of the music exploits her warm middle range. The true standout, however, was Barbara Frittoli's sovereign Donna Anna. The soprano managed to do just about everything right. Her "Or sai chi l'onore" rang out resplendently (almost a surprise), with no sign of strain. She floated the lyrical line of "Non mi dir" with ideal elasticity and interpolated a gleaming vocal arc leading into the reprise. She was a reliable and brilliant presence in ensembles.

For the most part, Frittoli maintained Anna's dignity, even if the director opted for the once-controversial view that the character is misleading Ottavio about her interaction with the Don. This undertone probably explained the awkward, reluctant stance adopted by Michael Schade as the put-upon fiancÚ. It did not detract from his sensitive mezza-voce handling of the first of Ottavio's arias.

Eric Halfvarson brought sepulchral resonance to the Commendatore's music, and Oren Gradus made a better-than-usual Masetto. Aside from Masetto's somewhat unlikely finery, the eighteenth-century costumes designed by Anna Anni and Sylvia Nolan were unobtrusive and appropriate.



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