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 Performances

Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Munich

Die Meistersinger at the theatre in which it was premiered, on Wagner’s birthday: an inviting prospect by any standards, still more so given the director, conductor, and cast, still more so given the opportunity to see three different productions within little more than a couple of months).

Janáček, The Makropulos Case, Bavarian State Opera

Opera houses’ neglect of Janáček remains one of the most baffling of the many baffling aspects of the ‘repertoire’. At least three of the composer’s operas would be perfect introductions to the art form: Jenůfa, Katya Kabanova, or The Cunning Little Vixen would surely hook most for life. From the House of the Dead might do likewise for someone of a rather different disposition, sceptical of opera’s claims and conventions.

Il barbiere di Siviglia at Glyndebourne

Director Annabel Arden believes that Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia is ‘all about playfulness, theatricality, light and movement’. It’s certainly ‘about’ those things and they are, as Arden suggests, ‘based in the music’.

Oedipe at Covent Garden

George Enescu’s Oedipe was premiered in Paris 1936 but it has taken 80 years for the opera to reach the stage of Covent Garden. This production by Àlex Ollé (a member of the Catalan theatrical group, La Fura Dels Baus) and Valentina Carrasco, which arrives in London via La Monnaie where it was presented in 2011, was eagerly awaited and did not disappoint.

Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette at Lyric Opera, Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago staged Charles Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette as the last opera in its current subscription season.

L’incoronazione di Poppea, RAO

‘The plot is perhaps the least moral in all opera; wrong triumphs in the name of love and we are not expected to mind.’

Madame Butterfly , ENO

Anthony Minghella’s production of Madame Butterfly for ENO is wearing well. First seen in 2005, it is now being aired for the sixth time and is still, as I observed in 2013, ‘a breath-taking visual banquet’.

Valiant but tentative: La straniera at the Concertgebouw

This concert version of La straniera felt like a compulsory musicology field trip, but it had enough vocal flashes to lobby for more frequent performances of this midway Bellini.

London Festival of Baroque Music 2016: Words with Purcell

As poetry is the harmony of words, so music is that of notes; and as poetry is a rise above prose and oratory, so is music the exaltation of poetry.

The Dark Mirror: Zender’s Winterreise

From experiments with musique concrète in the 1940s, to the Minimalists’ explorations into tape-loop effects in the 1960s, via the appearance of hip-hop in the 1970s and its subsequent influence on electronic dance music in the 1980s, to digital production methods today, ‘sampling’ techniques have been employed by musicians working in genres as diverse as jazz fusion, psychedelic rock and classical music.

Great Scott Wows San Diego

On May 7, 2016, San Diego Opera presented the West Coast premiere of Great Scott, an opera by Terrence McNally and Jake Heggie. McNally’s original libretto pokes fun at everything from football to bel canto period opera. It includes snippets of nineteenth century tunes as well as Heggie's own bel canto writing.

Bellini’s Adelson e Salvini, London

A foiled abduction, a castle-threatening inferno, romantic infatuation, guilt-laden near-suicide, gun-shots and knife-blows: Andrea Leone Tottola’s libretto for Vincenzo Bellini’s first opera, Adelson e Salvini, certainly does not lack dramatic incident.

Manitoba Opera: Of Mice and Men

Opera as an art form has never shied away from the grittier shadows of life. Nor has Manitoba Opera, with its recent past productions dealing with torture, incest, murder and desperate political prisoners still so tragically relevant today.

The Rose and the Ring

Published in 1855 as an entertainment for his two daughters, William Makepeace Thackeray’s The Rose and the Ring is a burlesque fairy-tale whose plot — to the author’s wilful delight, perhaps — defies summation and elucidation.

The Lighthouse at San Francisco’s Opera Parallèle

What more fitting memorial for composer Peter Maxwell Davies (d. 03/14/2016) than a splendid performance of The Lighthouse, the third of his eight works for the stage.

King’s Consort at Wigmore Hall

I suspect that many of those at the Wigmore Hall for The King’s Consort’s performance of the La Senna festeggiante (The Rejoicing Seine) were lured by the cachet of ‘Antonio Vivaldi’ and further enticed by the notion of a lover’s serenade at which the generic term ‘serenata’ seems to hint.

Kathleen Ferrier Awards 2016

Having enjoyed superb singing by a young cast of soloists in Classical Opera’s UK premiere of Jommelli’s Il Vogoleso the previous evening, I was delighted that the 2016 Kathleen Ferrier Awards Final at the Wigmore Hall confirmed the strength and depth of talent possessed by the young singers studying in and emerging from our academies and conservatoires.

Pacific Opera Project Recreates Mozart and Salieri Contest

On February 7, 1786, Emperor Joseph II of Austria had brand new one-act operas by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Antonio Salieri performed in the Schönbrunn Palace’s Orangery.

Powerful chemistry in La Cenerentola in Cologne

Those poor opera lovers in Cologne have a never ending problem with the city’s opera house. Together with the rest of city, the construction of the new opera house is mired in political incompetence.

Tannhäuser: Royal Opera House, London

London remains starved of Wagner. This season, its major companies offer but two works, Tannhäuser from the Royal Opera and Tristan from ENO.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

13 Dec 2011

Grand Don Giovanni, La Scala, Milan

More than a gala for Milan and for Italy, this wonderful Don Giovanni at Teatro alla Scala, Milan, was a gala for all the world, broadcast live internationally.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Don Giovanni

Don Giovanni: Peter Mattei; Il Commendatore: Kwangchul Youn; Donna Anna: Anna Netrebko; Don Ottavio: Giuseppe Filianoti; Donna Elvira: Barbara Frittoli; Leporello: Bryn Terfel; Zerlina: Anna Prohaska; Masetto: Stefan Kocan. Conductor: Daniel Barenboim; Director: Robert Carsen; Sets: Micahael Levine; Costumes: Brigitte Reiffenstuhl. Teatro alla Scala, Milan, 7th December 2011 (broadcast live internationally).

 

This production starts controversially. Donna Anna (delicious Anna Netrebko) tussles with Don Giovanni (Peter Mattei). We assume it’s rape, because nice girls don’t do sex with strangers. What is she really objecting to, his presence or his mask? How did Don Giovanni get past her defences? He’s a man for whom the thrill of the chase may be more important than the act. So this Donna Anna seems to be enjoying herself while claiming to resist. After all, she has a fiancé and an image to protect. Don Ottavio (Giuseppe Filianoti) isn’t convinced she loves him. Netrebko sings the recitative and “Non mi dir, bell'idol mio”, with such passion that you wonder what private grief she’s trying to suppress. Netrebko’s Donna Anna is psychologically complex, not simply a victim of an attack, but of the whole repressed, narrow world she lives in. Netrebko’s performance was a tour de force of great emotional depth, haloed by exceptionally lustrous orchestral playing.

Don Giovanni is a cad but he’s a charmer. Mattei is sexy, and sings with alpha male confidence, but he expresses Don Giovanni’s appeal on deeper levels. Don Giovanni embraces life — meals as well as women — and deliberately flouts convention, whereas men like Don Ottavio and Masetto (Stefan Kocan) cling to it. He offers choice. “È aperto a tutti quanti! Viva la libertà!”. Perhaps that’s why he only meets his match in The Commendatore (superb Kwangchul Youn) who defies the constraints of death. Mattei’s Don Giovanni has animal energy, and glories in it — what kind of man keeps his own studbook? But Mattei also suggests the boyish impishness that some women can’t resist. Women like Donna Elvira (Barbara Frittoli) need so much to be needed that they fall for a trite ditty like “Deh vieni alla finestra”.

Ultimately, Don Giovanni seduces because he fills women’s fantasies. He also captivates men. Leporello (Bryn Terfel) is culpable for Don Giovanni’s misdeeds, but he can’t break away. Mattei and Terfel are the same age, and have created both Don Giovanni and Leporello, so it’s interesting to hear them together. At first Terfel is costumed like a roughneck, which is a complete mistake. No surprise that Terfel, who knows the opera thoroughly, looks uncomfortable and doesn’t sing the catalogue aria as crisply as he has done before. Don Giovanni wouldn’t hire a buffoon.

Once the silly costume is gone, Terfel shows why he’s a match for Mattei. Their different styles bounce off each other, creating dramatic tension. Terfel sounds like he’s about to explode with the violence Don Giovanni suppresses under his urbane exterior. Mattei, though, is strong enough to stand up to this savage Leporello, his elegant demeanour barely ruffled, for he knows Leporello isn’t so different from Donna Anna and Donna Elvira. They all protest but remain transfixed. The Mattei/Terfel dynamic shows the symbiotic relationship between two strong personalities made uneven because of their social status. The dinner party scene bristles with latent menace.

Everyone’s playing mind games in this opera. Zerlina (Anna Prohaska) keeps up an illusion of innocence yet delights in kinky activities (read the text). Zerlina is young, but no puppet. Prohaska’s movements are as crisp as her diction, creating a pert, non-victim personality who could quite possibly pull the strings on Don Giovanni if their positions were reversed. Prohaska is a singer to follow.

This production, directed by Robert Carsen, emphasizes the games the characters are playing. When Don Giovanni and Leporello change clothes, they aren’t really fooling anyone who doesn’t want to be fooled. The set (Michael Levine) resembles the curtain at the Teatro alla Scala, which Don Giovanni “pulls” down in replica. The masqueraders emerge from the audience, dressed in velvet, the colour of blood. It’s a good use of the otherwise wasted space right down the middle of the theatre, and dramatically correct for it engages the audience to take a stand on the morality in the opera.

When the Commendatore rises from his grave, Kwangchul Youn’s magnificent bass booms across the auditorium. It’s terrifying because the audience is disoriented, just like Don Giovanni. Youn is standing in the royal box, with the President of Italy, Giorgio Napolitano. It’s a powerful statement, since the Italian president isn’t an ordinary politician. Politicians screw around like Don Giovanni, but the President of Italy, like Il Commendatore, is supposed to represent higher ideals. Mattei and Youn struggle with such intensity that it’s irrelevant whether Youn “is” or isn’t a statue. He stabs Don Giovanni through with his sword. “Questo è il fin di chi fa mal” sing the ensemble at the end. Often this epilogue feels unnatural after the fireworks that went before. This time there’s a twist. Mattei stands on stage, while the ensemble descends into a hole in the ground. In the real world, Commendatores don’t appear by magic. Bad guys will win unless we take responsibility against them.

Anne Ozorio

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):