Wednesday, April 15, 2009

More Mozart Opera on HD: DON GIOVANNI

Photo by Rozarii Lynch
Tonight at SIFF Cinema, Mozart's Don Giovanni from last summer's Salzburg festival. I'm curious to hear Chris Maltman as the Don and Matthew Polenzani as Ottavio; the two of them charmed as Guglielmo and Ferrando in Seattle Opera's 2006 Cosi fan tutte. Above, the two of them with Richard Stilwell as Don Alfonso. We've also heard Polenzani here as Almaviva in Rossini's Barbiere. Maltman was Seattle Opera's Artist of the Year for Billy Budd, back in 2001.

Other exciting members of this Don Giovanni cast include Erwin Schrott and Dorothea Röschmann. Left, Maltman as Giovanni with Schrott as Leporello. The production, by Claus Guth, is apparently set at a bus stop in the middle of a forest, all in the three hours between when the Commendatore mortally wounds Giovanni and when he dies, and is all about humanity's fear of death.

(What the...? I thought Don Giovanni was supposed to be a dramma giocosa...)


  1. At the screening tonight I was asked for the complete cast list:
    Christopher Maltman (Don Giovanni)
    Anatoly Kocherga (Il commandatore)
    Annette Dasch (Donna Anna)
    Matthew Polenzani (Don Ottavio)
    Dorothea Röschmann (Donna Elvira)
    Erwin Schrott (Leporello)
    Ekaterina Siurina (Zerlina)
    Alex Esposito (Masetto)

    There's a little more information about the production at They were doing the "Vienna" version of the opera, instead of the combo Prague/Vienna we ordinarily do in Seattle; that's why we got the Leporello/Zerlina duet, skipped "Il mio tesoro", and lost the Epilogue.

    Please use this space to tell us what you thought!

  2. I loved it. My main reasons:

    It's the first time I've ever seen anything remotely seductive about Don Giovanni. Plus the mortal wound made his behavior a little more understandable. He seemed to be driven by desperation and defiance. And rage. And fear. And lust, of course, but that's kind of boring all by itself.

    The relationship between Don G and Leporello was wonderful. It was understandable on a human level, not just a master/servant level (which isn't exactly accessible to 21st century me).

    I loved that they were drug addicts. It not only explained some of their behavior, but also made the repetiion in the words funny ("Those dudes are wasted!").

    In fact all the characters (possibly excepting Zerlina, for me) were recognizably human, driven by recognizable emotions. Donna Anna and Masetto were terrific.

    Plenty of overt sex and violence!

    The voices were absolutely beautiful.

    Big thanks to Seattle Opera and SIFF for bringing us these productions. I hope we get to see a lot more!


  3. I came fully prepared to hate it (I lived in Austria for 25 years and had my fill of director-centric reinterprepations of operas that had very little to do with the original), but I left utterly convinced and enthusiastic. This was a production that stays with you.

    This is definitely a production that has to be seen (as opposed to merely heard) because it is the stage action that explains the seeming vocal weaknesses (esp. Maltman and Schrott). It's only when you see Maltman playing a gravely wounded/dying man that you realize that the occasional breathlessness is intentional (I'm assuming it was intentional--it was perfect when you were watching the action).

    I didn't miss the epilogue, but I would have liked to have heard Polenzani sind "Il mio tesoro."

    This was an amazing experience--a true "Gesamtkunstwerk."

  4. My husband and I enjoyed the drama and voices. It was a raw, disturbing and unforgettable production.
    I still prefer having more charm and humor in Don Giovanni. Watching him sing while wounded was distracting. The first half seemed more riveting than the second, which got a little oppressive in the revolving forest. The scene where he switched with Leporello was too dark and the class differences between them too subtle. Singing to a tree stump was odd but I guess they were still high. Don G intruding in the final female aria was terrific. But I’ll take the last Seattle Opera version over this one.