Nov 15, 2008

Don Giovanni, Salzburg 2008

Don Giovanni - Christopher Maltman
Leporello - Erwin Schrott
Don Ottavio - Matthew Polenzani
Donna Anna - Annette Dasch
Donna Elvira - Dorothea Röschmann
Zerlina - Ekaterina Siurina
Il commandatore - Anatoly Kocherga
Masetto - Alex Esposito

Conductor - Bertrand de Billy
Director - Claus Guth
Sets and Costumes - Christian Schmidt

Wiener Philharmoniker, KV Wiener Staatsopernchor

Salzburg Festival August 2008 Unitel Classica Broadcast

First, I want to point out I'm rather unfamiliar with Mozart's operas - including Don Giovanni. My opinion is therefore one of a neophyte.

Most musical critics were skeptical about Claus Goth's new production, judging it controversial and lascivious. The staging might be a bit lustful (but really, just a bit) but isn't that the quintessential sense of the Don Giovanni's myth?
As far as I'm concerned, Claus Goth's work was true to the story, cohesive, aesthetically successful and very actual. What shocked the Mozart aficionados is undoubtedly what drew me into this production - that I would only describe as mesmorizing; portraying both Don Giovanni and Leporello as drug-addicted outsiders - some would refer to them as mavericks -, with the inevitable scene where Leporello injects in both their veins the illicit venom, was an interesting twist on the libretto - not a sacrilege.

The rotating stage (indeed a very pragmatic approach to the setting changes) was also a good idea; on the other hand, I was more doubtful about the chosen context at first (the story is unfolding in the woods) but all and all, the concept is solid and well-used [1]. Definitely a mesmorizing production.

I don't know what Mozart purists think about Bertrand de Billy's conduction but I found it vibrant, energetic and enticing.


Both Ekaterina Siurina, Alex Esposito and Dorothea Röschmann overplayed, ultimately looking more like Comedia dell'Arte characters - an unforgiving contrast with the tone Claus Guth was going for. Both of them also had vocal issues; Röschmann's breath was chaotic, Esposito couldn't properly project his high notes and Siurina was too distant and not focused enough on her Zerlina.

Annette Dasch's stage presence was much better, but her singing lacked implication (plus she has to do something to improve her Italian diction). As for Matthew Polenzani, he showcased poor acting skills and his singing was overall uneven (brilliant only once in Act I sc.14).

On the other hand, Christopher Maltman's Don Giovanni was praiseworthy (especially in the acting department [2]) and complemented perfectly Erwin Schrott's Leporello. The two created a fantastic dysfunctional pair, with a credible and powerful dynamics that is one of the two highlights of this cast, the other being Erwin Schrott.
His stage presence and his identification with the character were truly riveting, almost occulting his vocal abilities. I loved his performance.  


I might not appreciate Mozart's music to its (supposedly) true value, but this production was indeed a very unexpected and beautiful discovery. I only wish my "repertoire" would only be so lucky to be allowed such inspired staging and cast.

[1] My only criticism is about the Burger King crown Don Giovanni is wearing at the end of the opera (picture above)
[2] Vocally, he totally screwed "Finch'han dal vino" (Act I sc.15) with a tempo that had nothing to do with de Billy's. Also read the live review of Mostly Opera about this production - she calls a masterpiece (so we basically agree).

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