The Royal OperaHouse Covent Garden has revived for the third time director Kasper Holten’svisually stunning and vocally superb 2014 production of Don Giovanni.It features vocal splendour from bassos Erwin Schrott and Roberto Tagliaviniand magnificent soprano singing from Malin Bystrom and MyrtoPapatanasiu. And it has hugely imaginativedesigns and use of lighting.
Schrott as DonGiovanni and Tagliavini are a well-matched pair with big, resonant voices andphysical agility. They can change identities with a switch of a coat and a hat,and they give a marvellous performance as rascals, master and servant duellers,abusers and vocal marvels.
Malin Bystromhas a gorgeous, big voice and her performance as Donna Anna, the putativevictim of Don Giovanni is second to none. I say putative because I am convincedthat she was not assaulted by Don Giovanni at all. I state this on theinformation gleaned from the way Holten presents the opening scene.
In the firstscene she comes out of her bedroom wearing a beautiful evening gown which meansshe just returned from a high society event. She is trying to prevent DonGiovanni from leaving her and not the opposite. Later she tells her fiancée DonOttavio that Don Giovanni’s identity was concealed under a cloak and therefore shecould not recognize him. We know that he had no cloak in fact and was fullyvisible.
In the end whenshe tells Ottavio that she wants to waita year before marrying him, it is for love of Don Giovanni and not for grievingfor her father for whose death she is partly responsible. A fascinatingportrayal of Donna Ann.
MyrtoPapatanasiu sings Donna Elvira beautifully and with wonderful expressiveness.When she expresses her love and is not angry or vengeful, she is a woman inanguish, moving, lyrical, sometimes hopeful and always vocally wonderful. I hada problem with her failure to express her anger, indeed fury, when she declaresher desire to be avenged on the treacherous Don Giovanni who seduced her andthen abandoned her in a matter of days.
Tenor DanielBehle as Ottavio is a man of promises but no achievement. He wears a tuxedo inhis first appearance which may mean he and Donna Anna just returned from thefancy gig. What does he do? He goes to bed and Donna Anna lets in a lustyvisitor. Behle sings the gorgeous arias of the vacuous Don Ottavio very well.
The peasantcouple of Zerlina (Louise Alder) and Masetto (Leon Kosavic) are a delight. Sheis wearing a bridal gown and tosses her flower to the guests and has nodifficulty handling the oafish Masetto. She almost leaves him at the altar,comforts him after he is thrashed and always ends up on top. Lovely singing andacting. Masetto sings well but he isdressed in a fine suit. I think he should look more rural but it is a smallpoint.
The staging hasexceptionally high production values. The set by Es Devlin consists of a cubictwo-story structure with staircases in the centre. It is set on a revolvingstage with moveable panels providing a great deal of flexibility.
Holten goes muchfurther than that in his imaginative use of lighting and video projections. Inthe opening scene we see projected on the “house” hundreds of names. They arethe women that Don Giovanni seduced around Europe. We will see the projection afew times as a reminder of Giovanni’s character.
The mostly blackand white projections will be varied as when the Commendatore (BrindleySherratt) is murdered and the set is bathed in red. There is continuous andintelligent use of various light effects and video projection that addimmensely to the quality of the production. All is done without resort tomelodramatics. There is not even a speaking statue of the Commendatore, only abust which is broken to pieces and the guilt-ridden Donna Anna picks from thefloor.
Hartmut Haenchenconducts the Royal Opera House Orchestra and Chorus for a marvellous evening atthe opera.
Don Giovanni by W. A. Mozart is being performed eight timesbetween September 16 and October 10, 2019 on various dates at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London,England. www.roh.org.uk