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Mozart: Don Giovanni: Soloists, Real Orquesta Sinfónica de Sevilla. Coro de A.A. Teatro de la Maestranza. Conductor: Antoni Ros Marbá Teatro de la Maestranza de Sevilla.  24.4.2008. (JMI)

New Production: Teatro de la Maestranza.

Direction: Mario Gas
Sets: Ezio Frigerio
Costumes: Franca Squarciapino
Lighting: Vinicio Cheli


Don Giovanni: Erwin Schrott
Leporello: Marco Vinco
Donna Anna: Anja Harteros
Donna Elvira: Virginia Tola
Don Ottavio: Saimir Pirgu
Zerlina: Raquel Lojendio
Commendatore: Artur Korn
Masetto: Wojtek Gierlach

This Don Giovanni was the high point of interest for  the Seville opera season, offering two great singers,  Erwin Schrott as Don Giovannia and Anja Harteros, as Donna Anna. But as happens so often, disappointment was  the end result of the production because of the  staging and musical direction. I am convinced  that problems with both must have influenced the singers enormously, for the vocal standards achieved by were very much poorer that expected.

TheTeatro de la Maestranza's new production has stage direction by Mario Gas. He has turned out  some attractive and original productions, among them a  L’Elisir d' Amore, which has lost none of  its  freshness over the years, and  a similarly successful Butterfly at Teatro Real. This time though, his  efforts left much to be desired: direction of the singers was slack and the production lacked both dramatic concept and originality. This was  hardly  a development of Mozart/Da Ponte’s work at all and it simply felt thrown together too quickly. Apparently, Mr. Gas  must have thought it enough to surround himself with a high level team of collaborators, who have made the production aesthetically very engaging and bright  - and also extraordinarily expensive. For the rest, he simply put the action in the 20s among luxurious but emotionally cold sets. The only 'original' touch was that the Don Giovanni does not die and is seen walking around and smiling at the end of the opera, not the first time that we have seen this happen of course. So this is  routine stuff, devoid of ideas and imagination. What saves it are the  elegant and blue sets by Ezio Frigerio,  Franca Squarciapino's  spectacular costumes and Vinicio Cheli's lighting. It is fine to have a good team of collaborators, that's just not enough. Directors should half half an idea at least.

Catalonia's  Antoni Ros Marbá always has seemed to me a reliable  conductor, but not good enough for an opera like  Don Giovanni. His performance  left much to be desired because he  limited himself to accompanying the singers and marking tempos - some of which were somewhat erratic  by the way - without bringing either  any grace or tension to the score. The Drama Giocoso of Mozart/Da Ponte became a Drama Noioso with Ros Marbá. There were all sorts of problems between stage and pit, as if there was lack of rehearsals. The slow tempo he offered in “Fin Ch’an dal vino” took any brilliance out of the piece and even Seville's fine Royal Orchetra seemed mediocre formation under his baton. The chorus was OK, but you can't expect them to save the opera.

So, without stage direction and with poor conducting, only an exceptional cast could  achieve the impossible. This casting was in fact remarkable but even they couldn't work magic. Sadly, it seemed that even the singers  didn't believe in their roles.

Don Giovanni  was  Erwin Schrott, without a doubt one of the greats these days in the role.  I  have seen him sing it in the past and have always considered that he is one of the  great interpreters like Kwicien, Keenlyside, Finley and Schrott.This time he was  cold and prim, had little or no charisma and was vocally rather irregular  though with very good moments. His  best thing was the Serenade and he was  disappointing in “Fin ch’an dal vino.” He didn't seem to enjoy the setting and  and this  was transmitted to the audience. In fact, his expected triumph was no more than a warm reception, far from what he is used in other houses, and  a very long way indeed from how the Seville audience usually rewards its  top artists.

Marco Vinco was a uninteresting Leporello of little interest with an inclination for  excessive clowning, something that  Mr Gas should certainly have put right. Giocoso doesn't mean  buffo. Vinco is also becoming more and more a  baritone, losing the bass quality in his timbre, and  isn't really suited to Leporello now.

As I've  said already, one of the great attractions in the cast was the presence of German soprano  Anja Harteros as Donna Anna. I confess my great admiration for this excellent singer, one of the best today but, regretfully, she was affected by a sudden flu and was certainly not in very good voice. Although there were beautiful recitatives and absolutely breath taking pianissimos in “Non mi dir”, she finished rather tired, more than understandable in the circumstances. “Or sai chi l’onore” was not at the same level but despite all  the problems, she still managed an outstanding performance.

The Argentinean Virginia Tola again disappointed me as Donna Elvira. Her sound is too open too in the high register and the timbre loses quality. She is a convincing interpreter, although “Mi Tradí” was rather short of brilliance.  Saimir Pirgu from Albania was a good Don Ottavio. He sang his two arias in a gorgeous voice but was also hampered by the production, losing  any kind of credibility on stage. His voice is getting more weight however, and there is no loss of quality as it develops. Raquel Lojendio was a Zerlina without much  grace  who  made me suffer quite a bit in  “Batt, batti” with open and unpleasant sounds.  Polish Wojtek Gierlach was a coarse Masetto and  Artur Korn must be one of the oldest singers still active these days. He was the Comendatore.

The theater was full but there wer no triumphal “palmas sevillanas” for this production. There was a warm reception  for the artists however, with most enthusiasm for Schrott and Harteros.

José M. Irurzun

Pictures © Teatro de la Maestranza

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