Amadeus MOZART (1756–1791) Don Giovanni - Dramma giocoso
in two acts (1787)
Don Giovanni … Simon
Il Commendatore … Alfred Muff (bass)
Donna Anna … Eva Mei (soprano)
Don Ottavio … Piotr Beczala (tenor)
Donna Elvira … Malin Hartelius (soprano)
Leporello … Anton Scharinger (baritone)
Masetto … Reinhard Mayr (bass)
Zerlina … Martina Janková (soprano)
Chorus and Orchestra of the Zurich Opera House/Franz Welser-Möst
rec. live 14, 16, 18 May 2006, Zurich Opera House.
Producer: Sven-Eric Bechtolf
Set: Rolf Glittenberg
Costume: Marianne Glittenberg
Lighting: Jürgen Hoffman
Choreography: Stefano Gianetti
TV and video director: Felix Breisach
Region-free NTSC-DVD, designed for playback on all NTSC and
modern PAL compatible systems worldwide; Colour; NTSC System
16:9; Disc Format: 2 x DVD – 9; Audio Content: LPCM Stereo – Dolby
5.1- Digital surround - DTS 5.1 Surround; Subtitles: English;
Deutsch; Français; Español; Italiano. EMI CLASSICS
would be fun to write a dissertation about this production
rather than a review, but a flavour is required not a line-by-line
or note-by-note analysis. So let us start with where we are
and when. Depending on which source you use, Mozart set the
opera in a Spanish town (Seville) in the sixteenth or seventeenth
century. Here, we are in Western Europe with no more precision
than that. We are firmly in the twentieth century: 1920–1930s
Art Deco with the Charleston or post-the second war with
rock and roll, twist and dance suggestions of Zorba the
Greek and West Side Story. Yes, dear reader, I
am writing about a production of a Mozart opera – remember
the words ‘fun’ and ‘dissertation’ and that is not an oxymoron.
sets - what sets? - require some knowledge of the opera and
a strong imagination: wicker chairs, airport upholstered
benches, a small moveable cocktail bar (the last a risible
arbour for Masetto/Zerlina/Giovanni and later becoming Elvira’s
platform for her window/balcony) and finally a small African-style
portable statuette for the marble statue of the Commendatore
- worse than risible. Conversely there is a very effective
use of a huge rear-stage mirror reversing the early events
on stage and repeating them backwards apparently ad infinitum – nothing
is new; all is repeated down the generations? Very smooth
curtain movements cover scene-changes, dead body removal
and character separations.
dancing? Yes, dancing mixed with stage movements and tableaux.
For most of the time I am not sure what they add. Occasionally
I am certain that they subtract: by diverting attention away
from the central events; the worst their gyrations at the
end of Act II, the best the West Side Story-style
finger clicking gangland peasants in formation moving down
stage during the Masetto/Zerlina wedding festivities.
brings us to the class problem which riddles the da Ponte/Mozart
writing. Dinner-jacketed peasants - the flattening out of
twentieth century society? Although the Donna Anna and Donna
Elvira costumes are clearly up-market or perhaps from and
earlier era – a flattening out of time? See what I mean about
white shirt hanging outside his pinstripes – the butler of
Leporello has fallen on hard times, serving a master not
above some dirty street fighting to bring Leporello to heel.
Indeed Keenlyside is the action-packed Giovanni exhibiting
his now almost trademark strong physicality of movement:
enjoying a well directed opening fight, leaping over benches
or onto the ‘cocktail’ bar to direct the Masetto mob in the
chase of himself. He enjoys his role and acts with wit and
verve to involve his fellow characters and sometimes also
him it is necessary to remind oneself of the first phrase
of the opera’s title: Il dissoluto punito. Keenlyside
dissolute? Now there’s an oxymoron. Chisel features and body
strength indicative of a work-out in a gym rather than a
bed or bar. Equally, there can be no doubt of the vitality
of his singing. A firm focus, some delightful phrasing and
a silky tone of seduction second to none, reserving for Leporello
a mercurial instant change from charmer to aggressive dominance.
Scharinger sings and acts the role of Leporello with confident
ease. His gloriously resonant baritone seems to caress the
words as he sings them. Strong acting is required to convince
himself and us of the efficacy of the role-switch and believable
fear and pride in his master’s exploits. Scharinger is so
very polished that he seems to have untapped vocal and acting
reserves. He almost plays with his Catalogue aria so effortless
does he make it seem.
Mei is the haughty Donna Anna: although does the farewell
kiss of the opening scene suggest more the ‘hell hath no
fury’ woman rather than the defiled woman? Thereafter this
is the conventional Donna Anna whose early vocal lines always
seem to carry an innate intemperate (even dissonant) touch.
When allowed to settle she produces passion and clarity of
note and word. If her Or sai, chi l’onore of Act I
is good, her Non mi dir of Act II is excellent.
this production she has heightened and studied indifference
to her Don Ottavio who does not seem to project himself towards
her. This Don Ottavio is the young Polish tenor Piotr Beczala – more
Beczala in a dinner jacket than Beczala in love. However
he has a strong voice with a distinctively pleasing timbre.
In Dalla sua pace he demonstrates admirably his full
open-throated sound; the effect of the aria being reduced
by the distraction of some of the background female dancers
removing outer garments and a few then grouping themselves
down stage around him for the final bars. And when in close
up you also have the bra of the female behind him it does
nothing to enhance the aria directed to heaven to comfort
his true love. In similar vein Il mio tesoro commences
being sung to Elvira, Zerlina and Masetto. Then Elvira momentarily
resting her head on his shoulder (dissertation: discuss and
develop). The aria concludes with the female dancers who
have assembled behind him carrying him aloft off the stage.
Hortelius is Donna Elvira. It cannot be put more simply.
The name is new to me and I shall internet search for her
other recordings to see them and whether she really is as
good in other roles. Strong acting, glorious singing and
very easy on the eye. The periodic neat suggestion of character
fragility contrasting the total vocal security and an apparently
effortless throwing of notes at any pitch or volume.
Janková as Zerlina has two notable arias. Here she has to
sing most of the first to an empty stage thus making a bit
of a nonsense of the instruction to Masetto to beat her.
Whilst she takes her dress off in the second aria - relax,
there are respectable undergarments appropriate to the era
- she is left hidden on stage until the discovery of the
Leporello/Giovanni switch during which she has to redress,
unconvincing if not downright silly. She has a beguiling
voice with note security and clarity. She sings the ‘peasant’ of
the music with totally persuasive simplicity.
Masetto is sung by Reinhard Mayr, a part he despatches with
ease. Alfred Muff’s wonderfully magisterial deep-brown bass
is indeed the Commendatore of the condemnation to hell.
a weak vocal link, it is the ensembles that have enormous
strength of vocal and acting skill. I particularly enjoyed
the Hartelius/Mei/Beczala brief trio after they unmask (or
in this case take off their ‘shades’) - gentle runs and note
floating of great dignity. The finale of each Act gives a
lesson in vocal combination.
only musical reservation relates to some variable tempos
and the occasional lack of orchestral dynamics. Although
on sporadic occasions the orchestra wanted to compete with
the singers Welser-Möst just manages to hold them back. Those
are comparatively small points in a performance where otherwise
the orchestra supports and follows the excellent vocal stage
two Acts conveniently fit onto a disc each. There are a good
selection of tracks – but no information about them in the
accompanying booklet which consists of a George Hall brief
essay. Track details are in the Chapter List to be found
from the opening screen but no times.
your Don Giovanni and enjoy this. If you do not know it then
just lie back and enjoy it – but be prepared for some surprises
when you see your first conventional production.
from previous months Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the
discs reviewed. details We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to
which you refer.