Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Der fliegende Holländer, Bavarian State Opera

‘This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a whimper.’ It is, perhaps, a line quoted too often; yet, even though it may not have been entirely accurate on this occasion, it came to my mind. Its accuracy might be questioned in several respects.

Evergreen Baby in Colorado

Central City Opera celebrated the 60th anniversary of The Ballad of Baby Doe with a hip, canny, multi-faceted new production.

Lean and Mean Tosca in Colorado

Someone forgot to tell Central City Opera that it would be difficult to fit Puccini’s (usually) architecturally large Tosca on their small stage.

Die Walküre, Baden-Baden

A cast worthy of Bayreuth made for an unforgettable Wagnerian experience at the Sommer Festspiele in Baden-Baden.

Des Moines’ Elusive Manon

Loving attention to the highest quality was everywhere evident in Des Moines Metro Opera’s Manon.

Falstaff in Iowa: A Big Fat Hit

Des Moines Metro Opera had (almost) all the laughs in the right places, and certainly had all the right singers in these meaty roles to make for an enjoyable outing with Verdi’s masterpiece

Die Fledermaus, Opera Holland Park

With the thermometers reaching boiling point, there’s no doubt that summer has finally arrived in London. But, the sun seems to have been shining over the large marquee in Holland Park all summer.

Nice, July 14, and then . . .

J.S. Bach’s cerebral Art of the Fugue in Aix, Verdi’s massive Requiem in Orange, Ibn al-Muqaffa’ ‘s fable of the camel, jackal, wolf and crow, Sophocles’ blind Oedipus Rex and the Bible’s triumphant Psalm No. 150 in Aix.

Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance

The champagne corks popped at the close of this year’s Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance at the Royal Opera House, with Prince Orlofsky’s celebratory toast forming a fitting conclusion to some superb singing.

Prom 2: Boris Godunov, ROH

Bryn Terfel is making a habit of performing Russian patriarchs at the Proms.

Des Moines’ Gluck Sets the Standard

What happens when just everything about an operatic performance goes joyously right?

Des Moines: Jewels in Perfect Settings

Two years ago, the well-established Des Moines Metro Opera experimented with a 2nd Stages program, with performances programmed outside of their home stage at Simpson College.

First Night of the Proms 2016

What to make of the unannounced decision to open this concert with the Marseillaise? I am sure it was well intended, and perhaps should leave it at that.

La Cenerentola, Opera Holland Park

In a fairy-tale, it can sometimes feel as if one is living a dream but on the verge of being awoken to a shock. Such is life in these dark and uncertain days.

Il trionfo del tempo e del disinganno in Aix

The tense, three hour knock-down-drag-out seduction of Beauty by Pleasure consumed our souls in this triumphal evening. Forget Time and Disillusion as destructors, they were the very constructors of the beauty and pleasure found in this miniature oratorio.

Pelleas et Mélisande in Aix

Three parallel universes (before losing count) — the ephemeral Debussy/Maeterlinck masterpiece, the Debussy symphonic tone poem, and the twisted intricacies of a moldy, parochially English country estate.

Siegfried, Opera North

This, alas, was where I had to sign off. A weekend conference on Parsifal (including, on the Saturday, a showing of Hans-Jürgen Syberberg’s Parsifal film) mean that I missed Götterdämmerung, skipping straight to the sequel.

Götterdämmerung, Opera North

The culmination of Opera North’s “Ring for Everyone”, this Götterdämmerung showed the power of the condensed movement so necessary in a staged performance - each gesture of each character was perfectly judged - as well as the visceral power of having Wagner’s huge orchestra on stage as opposed to the pit.

Le nozze di Figaro, Glyndebourne

Michael Grandage's production of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro, which was new in 2012, returned to Glyndebourne on 3 July 2016 revived by Ian Rutherford.

Cosi fan tutte at the Aix Festival

Said and done the audience roared its enjoyment of the performance, reserving even greater enthusiasm to greet stage director Christophe Honoré with applauding boos and whistles that bespoke enormous pleasure, complicity and befuddlement.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Peter Mattei as Don Giovanni and Isabel Bayrakdarian as Zerlina [Photo by Ken Howard courtesy of The Metropolitan Opera]
26 Apr 2009

Don Giovanni at the MET with Peter Mattei

I returned to Don Giovanni firstly because I had never heard Peter Mattei sing, and friends had called him the greatest Don G since Siepi.

W. A. Mozart: Don Giovanni

Don Giovanni: Peter Mattei; Donna Anna: Erin Wall; Donna Elvira: Barbara Frittoli; Don Ottavio: Pavol Breslik; Zerlina: Isabel Bayrakdarian; Leporello: Samuel Ramey; Masetto: Joshua Bloom; Commendatore: Raymond Aceto. Conducted by Louis Langrée. Metropolitan Opera, performance of April 20.

Above: Peter Mattei as Don Giovanni and Isabel Bayrakdarian as Zerlina [Photo by Ken Howard courtesy of The Metropolitan Opera]

 

(Who else has been in that league? Treigle? Kwiecien? Pape? No one who’s sung it at the Met — as those three have not.)

Mattei is certainly a commanding figure, quite as tall as Erwin Schrott, though not at all good looking, and with — Mattei again — a large, handsome, easily produced sound that fills the Met and falls caressingly on the ear. His serenade was indubitably the evening’s high point, but the furious energy of the Champagne Aria was also a thrill. He can be intimate and suave to four thousand seats — no mean feat, and a major requirement for a successful Giovanni at the Met, but he does not slight the demonic factor. If Giovanni is too charming, if we find ourselves liking this creep, the moral message of the opera falls by the wayside, but if Giovanni is nothing but a thug (as, for instance, Bryn Terfel portrayed him — and also Ruggiero Raimondi in Joseph Losey’s movie), then we find the behavior of all the other characters inexplicable. Women (other than Anna, who hates him from first to last) should be charmed by this rogue until they realize their consent, and that only once, is the only thing that interests him. Some women are turned on by thugs — but two thousand?

Mattei pays attention to the full character: In the scene on the staircase at the evening’s opening, he was rather more obviously trying not merely to rape the unconquered Donna Anna, but also to keep his face averted so that she will not see it — an awkwardness in this production that Scrott failed to make convincing, and in which Mattei was ably abetted by Erin Wall. His occasional shock at seeing himself in the stage-height mirror — director Marthe Keller’s way of luring him to a doom of his own narcissism — indicated a self-doubt that Erwin Schrott never displayed — Schrott was just happy to see his handsome face any chance he got. Many moments that Schrott seemed to pass off casually — or use for opportunities to display his body — were part of the opera again in Mattei’s presentation.

This was a performance that left me wishing for more first-rate singers around Giovanni. The ladies began well, but faded. Erin Wall, the Donna Anna, a fine actress and a pretty woman with a secure soprano capable of expressing anger without growing hard or unwieldy, was first rate in the opening scene and “Or sai che l’onore,” and only ran into trouble in “Non mi dir,” that treacherous pit for any soprano, where the runs and twirls demanded more effort than, at that point in the evening, she still had in her. Barbara Frittoli, as the madcap Donna Elvira, was rather too sensuous all evening for this repressed, indignant figure (this may be the director’s miscue), but she sang Act I beautifully, and the crepuscular trio in Act II was poignant. Her “Mi tradi” was a shock — not a note securely placed, pitch all over the place, whole phrases haywire: an ugly business. Isabel Bayrakdarian, a puzzling singer, seemed to twitter her way through Zerlina — during “La ci darem” I thought she was singing triplets where Mozart had not written any, but no, it was just an unusually wide and quick vibrato. This was okay in “La ci darem,” but rather undercut the simple sincerity that should mark her two arias sung to Masetto. Too — this is Keller’s fault, not the singer’s — surely a peasant girl with a chance to marry a nobleman will want to be alone with him in his “casinetta” and not rip his clothes off in the street, behavior that will surely render subsequent marriage unlikely. (Rational behavior is not the average opera director’s strong point, is it?)

GIOVANNI_Frittoli_and_Matte.gifBarbara Frittoli as Donna Elvira and Peter Mattei as Don Giovanni [Photo by Ken Howard courtesy of The Metropolitan Opera]

Samuel Ramey perforce presented a Leporello who has been serving the family for generations (he looks and sounds old enough to be Giovanni’s grandfather), rather than the companion in lurid high jinks we have had in this production from Ildebrando D’Arcangelo and René Pape. Leporello is a buffo figure, whose music does not call for many sustained notes, so Ramey got through it tidily enough — but the core of the voice being irredeemably shot, every sustained note he did attempt was unpleasant to hear. This was all the sadder in that an ideal Leporello sound, dark and thrilling, was coming from Joshua Bloom, the young and spirited Masetto, who should really be promoted to the other role as soon as may be. At least Ramey’s appearance as Leporello left the Commendatore, a role he has occasionally disgraced, to the competent Raymond Aceto.

Don Ottavio was sung by Pavol Breslik, a Slovakian tenor who had made his New York debut the previous week. He is young and attractive, and his voice too is attractive — but either it’s a size too small for the Met or he has not yet got the hang of projecting it there. There was a nice sheen to his tone, but an audible strain to his line all evening — he is not a Met natural, as Messers Mattei and Bloom certainly are.

Known Mozartean quantity Louis Langrée conducted a swift-moving, delicately flavored Don Giovanni, danceable when dancing was at hand, dark when darkness fell in the score, and at all times careful to give the singers room and pace. One wished he had a second-act cast worthy of his efforts.

My sympathies for Mattei and Langrée were all the greater in that I, too, was surrounded by idiots, hummers, snorers, moaners, whisperers, people explaining the plot to their dates, laughing excessively at the titles, and fiddling with their Blackberries.

John Yohalem

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):