Don Giovanni: Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, 5th February 2013

E-mail Print PDF

After inaugurating http://img845.imageshack.us/img845/6859/mmfgiovan0213e.jpgthe new season just weeks ago with an old production of Die Walküre, even for the second opera of the season, the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, plagued by cash problems and interior turbulences (just a few days ago the General Manager was replaced by an external commissioner), has wisely opted to resort to yet another revival. Fortunately, just as in the case of the Wagner opera, the choice fell on a production of Don Giovanni that received rave reviews when it was first presented (and never revived) in 1997 at the Festival di Ferrara on the occasion of Claudio Abbado’s first approach to the Mozart masterpiece. The story to which Mozart’s music gives flesh and blood is narrated, in this version, just as a mere res facti: naked and effective like never before. The objectivity of the music of Mozart, born from his capacity to contemplate from equal distance any aspect of the “human” as well as to represent it from within, is here exalted. There is a single set: a concave line at the centre, slightly convex at both sides (almost resembling the bottom of a violin), made with high white doors plastered with stucco, the work of set designer Maurizio Balò. The movements of the characters, their entries and exits, happen through them, with a rhythm at times convulsive but geometrical (the finale of Act I), at times laboured, particularly when it is associated with a music capable to give body and time to the sordid and the sublime (the immense Act II Sextet).

Lorenzo Mariani’s direction is characterized by an elegant simplicity, but it does not limit itself to draw and deduce gestures, movements and attitudes from the music: in Mozart the simplest modulation has a precise psychological meaning. It goes beyond: favoured by being able to work with actors/singers, it is pure theatre. In a few words, the conception of the show is strongly unitary.  There are a few things that did not work, and unfortunately one of them is the core and essence of the opera, the death of Don Giovanni, who anticlimactically jumps off the stage and runs through the audience disappearing behind one of the doors of the stalls.

http://img27.imageshack.us/img27/3274/mmfgiovanni1.jpg

Zubin Mehta drew from the orchestra sounds of exceptional beauty and a performance of dazzling clearness and lucidity. Noteworthy were also the elegance and the rich inventiveness of the accompaniments. The sweetly soft and stealthy sound of the orchestra under “Là ci darem la mano”; the exceptional analysis of the instruments in “Batti, batti bel Masetto”, in which the ingenious scales and arpeggios of the cello obbligato stood out in a particular manner; the sharp sound and the rich dynamics of “Ah, pieta signori miei”; the splendid string in “Quali eccessi, o numi”; and the whirling Finale were other outstanding moments. At times some tempos of languid and pathetic moments may have sounded slow, and perhaps they were; for instance “Dalla sua pace” was taken at a euphemistically leisurely speed, but Mehta’s technique and rhythmic pulse prevented it from falling apart, as it certainly would have happened if a less experienced conductor had chosen the same tempo. In his hands this aria, sustained by a velvety and hushed sonority, became like a dreamy arrest of time, perfectly rendering the sense of a Don Ottavio lost in reverie, an effect in part spoiled by tenor Paolo Fanale’s too conspicuous fast vibrato, or, shall I say, bleat. It is unfortunate because this young Italian tenor, such an unappealing timbre excepted, possesses a fine technique allowing him to execute messe di voce, pianissimos, as well as accurate agility.

http://img5.imageshack.us/img5/5116/mmfgiovan0213c.jpg

The whole cast was on a generally fine level, none of them truly standing out for better or for worse. One would have never thought that Alessandro Luongo, a fast rising Tuscan baritone, was making his role debut as Don Giovanni, such was his confidence, both vocal and interpretative. A natural born actor, with his almost feral manners he seemed to espouse the version of the protagonist as an animal rendered obsolete by civilization, rather than a tragic hero defending his genius against complacent practicality, and even less a faceless libertine whose real significance is in what other more concretely realized characters see in him. Vocally the role did not present particular hurdles for him, and he was thus able – with Mehta’s obvious complicity – to realize beautiful effects such as the second strophe of his Act II Serenade, all sung in a melting mezza-voce that had nothing to do with the falsetto. On the other hand, there was too much barking in “Fin ch’han dal vino”, a result of his attempt to put too much emphasis on almost every syllable. Roberto de Candia’s Leporello was noteworthy for comic charm and considerable sympathy. His voice is remarkable- forward, natural, and round. His “Madamina” was alternately grand, sly, overbearing, and insinuating, but always dexterous: a Leporello cantante, as it should be, and not a buffo abounding in histrionics, snickering, and other such tricks. I only wished he had eschewed the humming at the end of his aria, a tradition apparently originated by Luigi Lablache in the early nineteenth century. In an ideal world, Don Giovanni and Leporello should physically resemble each other, which was certainly not the case in this production, de Candia’s rotund figure clashing with Luongo’s athletic looks. In the relatively short role of Masetto, Nicolò Ayroldi (the third pure baritone in three roles that can be cast with anything ranging from a lyric baritone to a bass) displayed an appealing and smooth voice. Stephen Milling, last heard a couple of weeks ago on the same stage as Hunding, proved more comfortable in Wagner than in Mozart. His Commendatore, albeit aptly thundering and stentorian, suffered too many lapses of intonation.

http://img708.imageshack.us/img708/9457/mmfgiovan0213a.jpg

Soprano Yolanda Auyanet was announced as indisposed, and thus, as in all such cases, the reviewer is not allowed a thorough analysis of her performance. However, as I had already heard her two years ago as Mimì, it is safe to say that she belongs to the category of the “lighter” Annas, who normally negotiate without particular problems “Non mi dir bell’idol mio”, but – who more, who less - lack the vehemence and thrust to do full just justice to the Act I revenge aria. Both Donna Elvira and Zerlina were entrusted to two mezzo-sopranos, a choice I fully approve. Australian Caitlin Hulcup, who was a first-class Octavian for the inauguration of last year’s Festival, returned as Elvira and was again in lovely voice, performing with tremendous rhythmic fervour. Perhaps even too much, because at times her emotional involvement endangered her ligne du chant and led her to occasional straying from the right pitch. She flung herself through the cadenzas with extraordinary purpose, signalling at once the vulnerability and tenacity of the character. In a few words, her vocal vibrancy and dramatic commitment suggested a passion that seemed indubitably Spanish and youthful, but not entirely aristocratic. It may be a legitimate choice, because Elvira, though belonging to the high society, is here caught in a particularly thorny moment, and as she herself says, she has “perduto la prudenza”. Zerlina, with its low tessitura, is much better suited to a lyric mezzo-soprano than the traditional light, if not soubrettish soprano. Marina Comparato, with her warm timbre, was cultivated in “Batti, batti” and in “Vedrai, carino” had a particular gleaming tone. Add a svelte figure and a playful, winsome personality and the result was an ideal Zerlina.

The chorus does not play a large role in this opera, but it marked the debut of the new chorus master, Lorenzo Fratini, who will have the chance to display his talent in the next scheduled work, Carmina Burana, an event long sold out and eagerly awaited especially for the mise-en-scène of La Fura dels Bauls. I will duly report.

4-half_stars

Nicola Lischi

Opera Britannia

Photographs © Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino



 

Recent Reviews

Puccini: Tosca

Renée Fleming, our hostess with the mostest at the Metropolitan Opera’s latest cinema relay of Tosca a few weeks ago, urged us – as ever – to experience opera first-hand and to ‘come visit the Met’ or to support your local opera company. The Opera Britannia excursions budget wouldn’t get you as far as York, let alone New York, so my local company it was and performing the same opera too. Tosca is very much the safe, financial bolster to Welsh National Opera’s Tudor trilogy in its autumn season – a crowd-pleaser of a production excavated from 1992, but which seemed even older.


 

Humperdinck: Hänsel und Gretel

And so to Milton Keynes, pursued by a perishing wind fit to crack the famous concrete cows. The Milton Keynes Theatre, as a venue, is one of the jewels in the ATG crown, big enough to house almost any touring product, with spacious and well-designed auditorium and foyers. Unfortunately it is marooned in one of those soulless retail areas surrounded by a sea of mediocre chain outlets which offer the same tat or that which passes for food in a thousand other identical areas the world over. Whether it was position or the icy blasts which accounted for the poorly populated house is hard to say.


 

Mozart: The Magic Flute

For all the risk-taking in the operatic world, productions which are guaranteed bums-on-seats bankers are like Nibelung gold. To scrap not one but two such productions is a brave move for English National Opera this season. We shall see what Christopher Alden inflicts on Rigoletto in the spring, replacing Jonathan Miller’s famous Little Italy staging. Meanwhile, Nicholas Hytner’s much loved production of The Magic Flute has finally been laid to rest (after a few ‘absolutely your last chance to see’ revivals), replaced with this new one by Simon McBurney and Complicite.


 

Shostakovich: The Nose

Described at the time as “an anarchist’s hand grenade,” The Nosewas not well received and soon disappeared from view, although Malko, one of Shostakovich’s teachers at the Conservatoire, recognised the quality of the score. It was composed in 1927-28 and given a concert performance, against Shostakovich’s better judgment, in 1929: “The Nose loses all meaning if it is seen just as a musical composition. For the music springs only from the action...It is clear to me that a concert performance of The Nose will destroy it."


 

News

ENO goes widescreen

After resisting the prevailing tide for opera houses beaming their wares to a worldwide cinema audience, English National Opera has seen the light. From 2014, selected productions will be screened at 300 cinemas around the UK and beyond, starting with its revival of David Alden’s production of Peter Grimes, starring Stuart Skelton. A new production, by Terry Gilliam, of Berlioz’s Benvenuto Cellini will also be relayed. Gilliam’s earlier Berlioz adventure, The Damnation of Faust, was broadcast on television.


 

 

Poetry Corner

Biography: Mary Robertson is an Emeritus Professor in Neuropsychiatry at University College London and visiting Professor at St George’s Hospital Medical School, London. Aside from being an opera devotee, Mary is a published poet and photographer.

(New poems added: 04/08/2010)

more >>

 

 


News updates

Subscribe to Opera Britannia to receive all the latest news and latest reviews

Signup >>

Around the Houses

Dmitri Platanias will sing the title role when the Royal Opera revives its new production of Nabucco. Mariusz Kwiecien will be joined by Saimir Pirgu in Steffen Aarfing's production of Szymanowski's King Roger at Covent Garden in 2015. The Royal Opera will stage Andrea Chenier in 2014/15 with Jonas Kaufmann, Eva-Maria Westbroek and Željko Lucic.

Anna Netrebko is due to sing the role of Lady Macbeth for a single performance at the Bavarian State Opera in June 2014.

Maria Agresta will sing Lucrezia in Verdi's I due Foscari in the 2014-15 season at Covent Garden. Placido Domingo does the Doge double, adding the baritone role of Francesca Foscari to his Simon Boccanegra.

Corinne Winters, fresh from her triumph as Violetta in ENO's production of La traviata, is to return to the Coliseum next season as Teresa in Berlioz's Benvenuto CelliniMichael Spyres sings the title role in a production which sees the return ofTerry Gilliam to the director's seat, after his Damnation of Faust debut.

. Read More>>

"Around the Houses" concentrates on providing the latest news on future plans for opera companies around the globe, artists schedules, cancellations and interesting snippets of information. We will try and avoid unsubstantiated gossip wherever possible, but all of our sources will remain completely confidential.  If you would like to advise us about potential news for this section, then please feel free to email us at info@opera-britannia.com.

Coming Soon

Reviews to be published shortly:



 


 


CD Reviews

Vivaldi: Catone in Utica (Naive)

Althoughhttp://img197.imageshack.us/img197/8908/gkdw.JPG he claimed to have composed around ninety operas, there cannot be many left in the archives of the Biblioteca Nazionale in Turin for Naïve to record in its ongoing Vivaldi Edition if you discount pasticcios, reworkings and incomplete works. Their latest offering, the fourteenth opera in the series, falls into the latter category, for only Acts II and III of Catone in Utica have survived. The opera was written to celebrate the culmination of his third and final season at Verona’s Teatro dell’Accademia Filarmonica – a profitable success for the composer. Premiered in 1737, it is unknown whether Act I was even written by Vivaldi himself, or whether music by other composers was employed.

Read more>>


Recital Reviews

Anne Sofie von Otter: Alumni Series

Milton Court, 23rd November 2013

When this http://img14.imageshack.us/img14/7950/npze.jpgrecital was first drawn to my attention, such is my regard for the Swedish mezzo that I immediately withdrew from reviewing Albert Herring some two hundred yards down the road in the Barbican, and enthusiastically opted for what I thought was an evening of French chansons and mélodies. What a prospect! Anne Sofie von Otter let loose on Chausson and Debussy, Fauré and Poulenc, perhaps some Gounod and Bizet, with maybe a little Délibes and/or Satie by way of let-your-hair-down encore material. All with her long-term musical accompanist Bengt Forsberg summoning up the necessary style. Rapture guaranteed, for which I arrived fully prepared.

Read more>>


DVD Reviews

Donizetti: Lucrezia Borgia (EuroArts)

Scholars now http://img543.imageshack.us/img543/5228/vu6o.jpgcast doubt on Lucrezia Borgia’s credentials as mass poisoner, but Donizetti’s operatic treatment on her historical character would have us believe she spiked drinks with cantarella and laced dishes with deadly nightshade like nobody’s business. Lucrezia, here on her fourth marriage (in reality, her third) to Alfonso d’Este, Duke of Ferrara, is reunited with Gennaro, her long-lost son. Unfortunately, she withholds this vital information from him and from her husband, who suspects her of conducting an affair. It’s as free an interpretation as the lusty television series The Borgias, which never got as far as this in Lucrezia’s marital history, but none the worse for that.

Read more>>


Copyright 09 Opera Britannia
facebook twitter