Thursday, June 20

Don Giovanni – The Metropolitan Opera Live in HD

Mozart’s retelling of the Don Juan myth dates from 1787 and its tale of a serial, sexual predator sadly remains far too relevant some 235 years later.

Don Giovanni (Peter Mattei) has seduced some 1,800 women, all catalogued by servant Leporello (Adam Plachetka), and he is looking to add another name with his attempted rape of Donna Anna (Federica Lombardi) that results in him killing her father, the Commendatore (Alexander Tsymbalyuk), and which her fiancé Don Ottavio (Ben Bliss) swears to revenge.

Donna Elvira (Ana Maria Martinez), an earlier conquest, has come in search of Don Giovanni, although he is now trying to seduce peasant girl Zerlina (Ying Fang) on her wedding day to Masetto (Alfred Walker) and later attempts to rape her at his party.

The next day, Giovanni forces Leporello to swap clothes so that he can try his luck with Elvira’s maid in disguise but later in the graveyard he is confronted by the demons from his past: will he seek redemption and change his ways or is he doomed to burn in hell?

There is always a risk with this opera that we are lulled into liking the rake at its centre in spite of his behaviour – which certainly explains how the likes of Epstein, Trump, and Johnson get away with it – but this has been well avoided here through the intricacy of the staging and undoubtedly Mattei’s outstanding performance which subtly hints – and is all the more believable for it – at the nastiness at the heart of his character.

Director Ivo van Hove’s contemporary dramatisation works wonderfully with set and lighting designer Jan Versweyveld transforming the landscape from Sevilla to a more sinister setting of dark and shadow, reminiscent of the Vienna of The Third Man – a deserving nod to the original along with the masked staging of the ball with superb costuming from An D’Huys – and the incorporation of Escher-inspired stairs to take you everywhere and nowhere was inspired. Christopher Ash’s projection offered an all too realistic and fitting finale before light and colour took us, hopefully, into a new world.

The success of this opera depends much on the acting and chemistry between its players and this production oozes it in every quarter, aided much by Sara Erde’s choreography. Martinez captures the emotion of Elvira so beautifully that you can believe her turmoil, whilst Plachetka’s tested loyalty demonstrates his despair and despise towards his master.

Tsymbalyuk was an imposing presence alive and dead whilst Lombardi’s strong delivery showed a more knowing side to her character who toys somewhat with the more immature Ottavio who was well portrayed by Bliss. Walker excelled as the meathead that is Masetto who is well wrapped around the little finger of Fang’s youthful Zerlina.

All round performances and vocal delivery from cast were excellent and we are treated to so many superb solos, dynamic duets and more that I can’t in all fairness single anybody out with the exception of one Mattei’s ‘Deh, vieni alla finestra’ confirms he simply is the Don Giovanni of this generation.

Mozart’s score teems with the elegance and grace that marks his entire output, which is evident from the first measures of the ravishing overture. This combination of musical refinement and extraordinary dramatic expression makes Don Giovanni one of the longest enduring and universally beloved works in the standard repertoire and Nathalie Stutzmann, on her Met debut, captures it perfectly with all the necessary flair and flourish for the orchestra to provide a polished performance in support of the on-stage action.

This production was screened worldwide as part of The Met Opera Live in HD. Further details of this, the penultimate production of this season, and upcoming productions including the 2023-24 season is available at https://www.metopera.org/season/in-cinemas/

Reviewer: Mark Davoren

Reviewed: 20th May 2023

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.
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