Last night when I wasn't writing about Fidelio, I was watching another DVD, the recent TDK release of Don Giovanni from the Wiener Staatsoper. The cast is excellent, the sets and costumes a treat but the shining star is Riccardo Muti. I like this man a lot. Fiery, intense, Italianate Mozart - it's perfect. When I saw Don Giovanni in Wellington and Auckland, I had the feeling something was lacking in the orchestra and now I know, what I wanted was this. I don't know how many times I've heard that overture now but he has me still finding new things in it. I love Nikolaus Harnoncourt dearly, but when it comes to this opera, I'd choose Muti in a heartbeat.
Now to that excellent cast. Allow me to step out of character for a moment and give first mention to the beautiful - and beautifully-named - Ildebrando d'Arcangelo. Yes, a boy. Yes, a Leporello. What a Leporello. Magnetic, energetic and elegantly sung - quite irresistible. Adorably comical as Arlecchino in the beginning, dramatically believable by the time he's under the table shouting "Dite di no!". Carlos Alvarez is a marvellous Don Giovanni - I really do prefer an older Giovanni, and Carlos is just right. The costuming (which moves from 16th through to 19th century dress) means he looks significantly younger and more vital by the very end - just at the point he's heading off to Hell. The upright (physically if not morally)and bewigged figure of the first scenes looks more like Cavaradossi by the end, and similarly his performance intensifies, warms up, as the opera progresses. Michael Schade does little to overcome the useless aura of Don Ottavio, and the production doesn't give him much help either, but his subtly shaded and silky vocalism is appealing, I must say.
Anna Caterina Antonacci gives a heated performance as Donna Elvira. She sounded fine, mostly - but I just kept wishing her singing could reach the same intensity as her dramatic performance. Adrianne Pieczonka is a lovely Donna Anna, creamly and lyrical. Maybe a touch too light in 'Or sai chi l'onore' but 'Non mi dir' was excellent. (A question, incidentally: "Non sedur la mia costanza del sensibil mio core" or just "Non sedur la costanza etc."? I've heard both but the first seems odd to me.) And the fabulous Angelika Kirchschlager is just that as Zerlina. Cute-as-a-button but with a thankfully grown-up and non soubrettish voice; I think she might possess the "peasant warmth" William Dart felt lacking in Ali McGregor. As I've mentioned before, I'm not hugely keen on Zerlina, but Angelika makes as good a case for her as anyone. She's well matched to Lorenzo Regazzo's Masetto (and I wish I could say more about him but I'm afraid I just can't remember anything).
The production I'm ambivalent about. It's certainly gorgeous. For most of the characters,the costumes, as I said, begin in the 16th century and move through to the 19th, and they're all extravagant and beautiful. Donna Anna chases after Giovanni looking like Tudor royalty; Donna Elvira enters dressed like a man, and ends up dressed more like a Manet. But whether all this really achieves anything, I'm not sure. I wonder at any production which apparently requires such detailed explanation in the notes; and I do tend to think that the best way to make the point about a work's timelessness or universality or whatever is to let it stand and allow the audience to make that discovery. However, as I say, it's a very attractive production. And, costuming gimickry aside, it is effective theatre. I have little hope for Don Ottavio and Donna Anna's marriage by the end - and I'm glad about that, because I don't think there is much hope for it; Donna Elvira's decision to enter a convent is convincing rather than comedic - also good; and altogether it's an entertaining but suitably dark Don Giovanni - dramma giocoso just the way I like it.
(P.S. Speaking of Mozart - sort of - I'm excited and very flattered to see I've been added to the blogroll of la belle Canadienne, aka soprano Erin Wall. Erin is currently in my favourite city (Paris) singing one of my favourite Mozart women (Fiordiligi) in one of my favourite places in the world (the Palais Garnier) alongside one of my favourite singers ever (the divine Barbara Bonney). She also happens to maintain one of my very favourite blogs, and if you haven't been there yet, go now. Highly highly recommended.)