was left stunned in admiration when I saw Calixto Bieito's production
of Don Giovanni at ENO in late September 2004 (see review)
and I am no less impressed now that I have had time to digest
the production at leisure on DVD.
version used is the Prague score. One cannot but gasp in astonishment
at Mozart's dramatic genius, and how – as Bieito points out
through his production – every single one of the emotions Mozart
explores is as relevant today as it was then. This relocation
of incident requires - as anyone who reads the review of the
ENO production will gather - a fair amount of explicit activity.
The frequent swear-words in the Coliseum English version are
of course jettisoned, but the visual antics (both implied and
graphic sex, groping etc) are there for all to see. And the
disco-dancing to Mozart's score just has to be experienced –
especially when in Act 2 it is provided by a bunch of clockwork
de Billy is an experienced Mozartian; he recorded this opera
for Arte Nova to considerable success: a November 2003 Bargain
of the Month (see review).
His brisk musicality is once more in evidence here – and with
these visuals, this approach really pays dividends. The visceral
reality makes the degradation of Act 2's setting all the more
hard-hitting, the dénouement truly chilling. The very opening
of the Overture positively blazes; it is clear this will not
be an easy performance.
cast is without a weak link. Polish baritone Wojtek Drabowicz
is a self-assured, swaggering Giovanni, capable of tenderness
as well as overt lechery. His Act 1 Scene 3 duet with Zerlina,
'La ci darem', is particularly beautiful – although admittedly
this is tenderness in the service of lechery. But nearly outclassing
him in laddishness is Korean Kwanchul Youn's Leporello, a football
hooligan in all but name – his pulling-up of his track-suit
bottoms as he embarks on his 'Catalogue Aria' is fully convincing!
And what a Catalogue Aria it is – he can sing as well as act.
He seemed genuinely put out to be thrown out of the car while
Don Giovanni and Donna Anna are quite obviously on the job –
cars have windows, remember.
Schörg is an imposing Anna, her scenes in Act 1 with Ottavio
showing the care that went into casting. Marisa Martins' Zerlina
not only disco-dances with the best of them - as a banner ironically
proclaims, 'Zerlina and Masetto Forever!' - but she makes a
more knowing than usual Zerlina; no paragon of virginal innocence
here. The party itself is a burst of colour on the senses, full
of outrageous disguises. Maybe the meanings of the 'Viva la
liberta' passages are blunted at this point but in the context
of Bieito's production it is a small price to pay.
cannot emerge from this experience but uplifted. Giovanni's
almost ritualistic repeated stabbing of the Commendatore in
Act 2 - who of course cannot die as he's already dead - is typical
of the whole. The same applies to the 'mirroring' stabbing of
Giovanni right at the end by each cast member in turn. Anna
it is that slits his throat, but what relish Leporello imparts
to his own thrust!
the best cast member - if a choice has to be made - is Véronique
Gens' Elvira, who as the wronged woman tortures Giovanni mercilessly.
Almost needless to say, she sings like an angel – but this angel
has a bite – she pulls a gun on Giovanni at one point before
binge-eating for her frayed nerves. One cannot but feel for
the Masetto (Felipe Bou).
is a wonderful set, and certainly my preferred modern-day Giovanni
on DVD. It outclasses the Glyndebourne on NVC Arts 0630-14015-2
by a long, long way.