Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Mozart - Don Giovanni|
Actors: Thomas Hampson, Ildebrando d'Arcangelo, Christine Schafer, Isabel Bayrakdarian, Melanie Diener
Director: Martin Kusej
Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
Suffers in comparison to the wealth of Don Giovanni producti
Toni Bernhard | Davis, CA United States | 03/28/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I hate to be critical of a singer whose great voice has brought me so much pleasure, but I expected much more from Thomas Hampson as Don Giovanni. After all, Hampson is known for being a bit of a ham onstage; I thought he'd channel that tendency into a memorable interpretation of the title character. But he doesn't seem to have a handle on the role, even though Giovanni can be validly interpreted any number of ways, from suave seducer to chilling psychopath. Hampson is far too casual onstage and even looks distracted at times. Yes, the voice is fine, but when he's not singing, he has very little stage presence. Ildebrando D'Ancangelo as Leporello is so much more energetic and alive onstage that it makes their many scenes together feel out of balance. In fact, D'Ancangelo's deep and expressive baritone (really a bass-baritone) made me want to see him in the title role instead of Hampson. (D'Ancangelo also plays Leporello in a 1999 DVD from the Vienna Opera.) Hampson excels in the Verdi roles I've seen him in on DVD (as the title role in "Macbeth" and as Rodrigue in "Don Carlos" to name two); perhaps Mozart is just not for him.
I've seen Christine Schafer do impressive work on DVD (e.g., as Gilda in a recent Covent Garden "Rigoletto"). Here, she starts out strong as Donna Anna. A few minutes into Act I, she and Don Ottavio (Piotr Beczala) give a chilling rendition of the duet that follows her father's murder ("Fuggi, crudele, fuggi"). They do a tremendous job of highlighting the jarring, dissonant sound that Mozart gave this piece. My expectations were high. But then in Donna Anna's Act I aria (after she recognizes Giovanni as her father's murderer), Schafer struggles, hitting several sour notes. In Act II, she sounds labored in the difficult but exquisite "Non mi dir." Beczala fares better as Don Ottavio. He gives a moving rendition of "Dalla sua pace," straight from the heart; and his "Il mio tesoro" is the highlight of Act II, as he navigates its many runs and sustained notes with great skill.
Melanie Diener as Donna Elvira is disappointing. In her first aria, she adds a lot of coloratura to Mozart's score, but then fails to hit several notes that he wrote out. This tendency continues throughout her performance. To me, Donna Elvira is the heart of the opera. Many play her as a madwoman, making her almost a buffa character which provides some comic relief in the opera. But that interpretation falls short to me because it's Elvira who steps in and, with the wild and short aria, "Ah, fuggi il traditor," stops Giovanni from seducing Zerlina. Then again, it is Elvira who, in the great quartet with Don Giovanni, Donna Anna, and Don Ottavio, so rattles Giovanni that he gets too close to Donna Anna, allowing her to see that it's he who seduced her in the dark. And it's Donna Elvira who, right until the end, is ready to forgive this doomed man. In addition to her vocal difficulties, Diener just doesn't develop a character (however one thinks Elvira should be interpreted).
As Zerlina, Isabel Bayrakdarian struggles vocally too. I find her voice to be harsh and sometimes shrill, not at all suited for the charming and flirtatious arias Mozart wrote for her character. By contrast, Luca Pisaroni as Masetto does a fine job; I love his deep baritone voice.
Robert Lloyd is in fine bass voice as the Commendatore, but his final confrontation with Giovanni is strange indeed. It lacks the tension and horror that this scene should have. And I object to the rewriting of the Mozart/Da Ponte version of how Giovanni meets his death. (I won't give it away.)
The modern setting of this production doesn't make much sense to me. I know the director is trying to make a point with all the women in bras and panties, but I don't know what it is (perhaps that we're too influenced by ads for underwear - maybe it's a European thing).
The bottom line for me is that it's a disappointing "Don Giovanni" when the best performers are those cast as Leporello, Don Ottavio, and Masetto (but kudos to those three - a star for each). With over 50 years of this great opera available on DVD (e.g., Cesare Siepi's classic portrayal of Giovanni at this same Festival in 1954), I can't recommend this one unless you're a "Don Giovanni" collector."
Interesting take, but not worth the hype
Wellington Pavior | Australia | 03/12/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This Don Giovanni, staged at Salzburg in 2006 created alot of hype, not least because of Thomas Hampson singing the title role.
The production, a very much modernized one, focuses on sex in the media and its effect on us. A typical modern approach to a classic opera. However, although this is an interesting take, it never takes you to a level where you are totally engrossed.
Hampsons singing is fine, although he doesn't sound at all like the Hampson we are used to hearing on record (his voice sounds tired and not completely suited to Mozart). The rest of the cast are fine but with no real stand out other than the commmendatore sung by Robert Llyod. He is a true bass, and unlike alot of the 'bass-baritones'who have taken the role, you thoroughly believe his ghostly pressence when his voice rings with that typical English warmth.
I recommend this DVD to all those collectors, but if you haven't got a DVD of Don Giovanni, I would suggest the traditional version from the met with Terfel and Fleming (although the singing isn't fantastic Zefferelli's direction is inspired and appropriately theatrical). I am a collector, particularly of Don Giovanni's (over 25 complete recordings and 10 DVD's) but I am yet to find a modern production that really seems to work."
Great singing, weird staging
Jorge Fernandez Baca | Lima, Peru | 06/14/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"It looks as if the organizers of the 2006 Salzburg Festival did not want to take risks with a new production of Don Giovanni and chose the one that Martin Kusej directed with great success three years ago with the Vienna Philarmonic Orchestra under Nikolaus Harnoncourt's conduction, and great singers like Thomas Hampson in the title role and Anna Netrebko as Donna Anna. However, given that Harnoncourt and Netrebko were meant to participate in Le Nozze di Figaro, the renowned conductor Daniel Harding and the famous soprano Christine Schafer were chosen to take their places.
Harding is quite familiar with this Opera, having conducted a well known CD recording in 1999 and a DVD recording in 2002, both with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra and Peter Mattei in the title role. In spite of the trouble he found in conducting a larger and heavier orchestra, with tempos which are some times too fast or too slow, the final result is still quite impressive. We can enjoy hearing Thomas Hampson as a suave Don Giovanni and Ildebrando D'Arcangelo as a witty Leporello. It must be remarked that given that Hampson is a lyric baritone, his voice is much milder and sweeter than that of a bass baritone like Peter Mattei and Carlos Alvarez. That makes a very special Don who does not seduce women with a voice that sounds tough and aggressive but subtle and captivating. Hampson's voice can only be compared with other legendary singers like Ruggero Raimondi and Dieter Fischer-Dieskau. D'Arcangelo's basso makes him the perfect companion to Hampson's voice because we can feel the contrast between the refined master and his tough and funny servant .The rest of the cast does a good job: Christine Schafer is a lovely Donna Anna, Piotr Beczala, who replaces Chrsitoph Strehl in the 2003 cast, is a nice Don Ottavio, and the same can be said about Luca Pisaroni as Leporello and Isabel Bayrakdarian as Zerlina. The lowest point is Melanie Diener, who was not able to repeat her wonderful performance of Donna Elvira in 2003.
The hardest critics go to the staging, which does not seem to be the most appropriate for what most people consider the best of Mozart's operas. The scenario looks like a Victoria Secret's store with women in sunglasses and underclothes moving around the main characters. It is not that I do not approve modern productions, but this one does not seem to work well.
How to Sabotage your Singers
drkhimxz | Freehold, NJ, USA | 09/09/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Other more learned reviewers have detailed strengths and weaknesses in the singers and the nature of the production. I did choose to watch the Mozart 22 at this time since I wanted to see what a "today" take would be after seeing a more traditional version. Modern dress did not bother me, modern nearly undress did not bother me. I expected the kind of scenic design that appeared and could go along with it although it seemed to detract rather than aid the production creating too much of a hard, bright atmosphere for the action that was to take place. On the whole the scenic features seem to have a life of their own, generally unrelated to the singing and stage performance going on at the same time. Worst of all, completely unrelated to whether the staging was modern, traditional or totally idiosyncratic and abstract, having no reference to any period, was the occasional but significant violation of a fundamental theatrical rule presumably old in the time of Aristophanes: do not upstage the primary action. What I mean is most visible and painful in the unfailingly successful catalogue song of Leporello. While he was doing a pretty good job at making his accounting of the Don's exploits, hordes of young women cluttered up the stage behind him doing nothing at all significant save busy work in such manner as to distract the hardiest opera buff from the singer. Of course, it helped not at all that one of them seemed to be bare breasted and otherwise costumed in less than the bra and panties of the others. While one cannot trust the applause meter to judge an opera audiences responses, in this case, the tepid response was right on target...not as a criticism of the singer but as a comment on the interference with his heroic attempt to retain their attention in the face of the competition of his supposedly supporting players. While other instances are not as blatant in their impact, there did frequently occur an almost knowing design to minimize the focus on the singer because one thought they were not capable of keeping it on themselves through their performance. (Any good choreographer, for example, learns to make any klutzy "great" star look like a Nureyev by arranging for the supporting dancers to perform miracles of Terpsichore while the Star does one-two-three, one-two-three....
At any rate, if you want to see one version of Don Giovanni as it can be done, you might be interested in this disc, the singers mostly sound good most of the time to the ears of a lay listener; however, if you want to see why Don Giovanni ranks among the most performed operas, I would commend another version."