Not a success.
Ted Zoldan | Los Angeles, CA, USA | 01/07/2007
(2 out of 5 stars)
"DON GIOVANNI is such a masterpiece that it takes poor conducting, very poor singers, or extremely poor direction to screw it up. It's the last that is the downfall of this production, with the combined lack of a adequate performance in the title role.
In concept, the staging could work: the production strips the Don of whatever shred of nobility he has, and he is shown as a brutal rapist and murderer who is still somehow strangely compelling to the fairer sex. I'd go see that GIOVANNI. But the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry, and what we are left with is a bit of a mess.
To start at the end, the final scene is deprived of any terror, full of cheesy fire floating in the background. The Commandatore appears to be a businessman in grey makeup, without a notion of the frightening specter that drags the dirty Don to hell. Before we get to the climax, there is some very uneven direction. Elvira is a valium-popping neurotic, which works. She tries to attack Leporello during their love duet, which doesn't. Masetto's beating is really brutal, which works. Masetto offers the Don a Heinekin when he crashes the wedding, which doesn't. Anna is clearly reliving her near-rape during her first act aria, which works tremendously well. During said rape, The Commandatore is strangled, which doesn't work at all, for not only must he sing after he receives his wound, but the music calls for a sword fight and the libretto depicts him lying in a pool of blood. Worst of all, the Don gropes a statue of the Madonna during the graveyard scene and the banquet, a clear-cut case of directorial silliness.
This is also a Don Giovanni without a real Don Giovanni. Elsewhere, Gilles Cachemaille has done fine work as Lepporello and Masetto on CD, but the Canadian Bass-Baritone is a lost cause as the Don. He's compitant enoungh, but he doesn't make much of a vocal impression when compared with his rivals on dvd: Siepi, Ramey, Allen, Luxon, and Terfel are playing a whole different ballgame. The serenade is completely unmemorable, the Champagne Aria rushed and uncomfortable. Cachemaille is usually a fine actor, but has been left to wallow here. (The Final scream as he is dragged to hell is comical, nothing more than a kind of yelp.) With the concept of a brutal Don, we must be offered another reason why women are so attracted to him, a magnetism or a zest for life. Cachemaille offers us nothing by way of compensation. Why does Elvira follow him, why does Anna feel at the same time repulsed and attracted to him, why does Zerlina nearly leave Masetto for him? Cachemaille gives us nothing in return, and we have no clue.
The production's saving graces come in the supporting cast. Steven Page is a wonderful Leporello who makes me wonder if the production would have been more successful if Master and Servant had switched roles, and both Donna Anna and Donna Elvira (Hellivi Martinpelto and Adrianne Pieczonka, respectively) are superb. Roberto Scaltriti's angry young Masetto is one of the best I've ever seen, and Julianne Banse is a sweetly-sung Zerlina. John Mark Ainsley is a noble Ottavio, for once worthy of both Donna Anna's hand and the divine Music he is given. Gudjon Oskarsson is an unobjectionable but unmemorable Commandatore. Yakov Kreizberg's conducting is workmanlike and brisk, video direction is fine, sound a bit weak in certain areas (The opera starts off with a very bad echo.) I'll give this two out of five stars for the excellent supporting cast."
Giordano Bruno | Wherever I am, I am. | 10/06/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The trouble with this bleakly modern staging of Don Giovanni isn't that it fails but that it works all too well. Instead of the Faustian Giovanni of traditional productions, whose defiance is so appealing that one almost wishes him a better fate, Gilles Cachemaille portrays a sex-crazed psychopath who unquestionably deserves the psychological hell he's created for himself. Instead of the stock commedia Donna Elvira, we get a hopeless co-dependent. The cocky survivor Leoporello, traditionally a double of Figaro but less lucky in his master, becomes a self-hating neurotic with just a hint of masochistic homoeroticism. Don Ottavio, traditionally a satiric role, in the Glyndebourne production becomes the most stable character, the "therapist" for Donna Anna. And so on. All the roles are well conceived in this dark, Bergmanesque psychodrama. It's a good piece of theater!
Oh, but what about the music? Unfortunately, it's not well-suited to the action, and perhaps should be replaced."