We are here to encourage the development of gifted young singers and to stimulate the growth of New York City's invaluable chamber opera companies. But we will not neglect the Metropolitan Opera either. Get ready for bouquets and brickbats.

Monday, August 27, 2012



The HD of Mozart's masterpiece played last night at Lincoln Center offered a bit of improvement regarding the rather staid Michael Grandage production reviewed last November and repeated below.  Again, Barbara Willis Sweete's fine HD direction gave us some good looks at the humorous byplay between the menacing Don G and the badly abused Leporello, as well as highlighting the lovely period-appropriate costuming.  Unfortunately, the barely serviceable unit set (both by Christopher Oram) gave little indication of place.  Apparently, all the aristocrats occupy the same tenement in some vaguely European country.  Nonetheless, we enjoyed the closeups of the fine cast.  But for the award of Best Don G productions of the decade, we tend to think back on the Juilliard Opera Center production and the Prelude to Performance of Martina Arroyo.

“Oh, Mr. Kwiecien, you have seduced and abandoned me but I love you still.  You are exciting, dangerous and compelling.  You are in control.  Nothing diverts you from your purpose in life.  You are a Don Giovanni for our age.”

Watching and thrilling to this year’s version of Don G. at the Met I realized that if anything is going to “show me something new” about any given opera, it is going to be the cast and the conductor, not the director.   Much has been written about the disappointment of Michael Grandage’s production and its failure to say anything new.  Whatever new that can be said about this opera was “said” by Fabulous Fabio Luisi’s crystal clear conducting which brought forth new delights by limning inner voices with astounding clarity.  Whatever new insights that could be found were discovered by the sensational international cast who made each character believable.

Not only the Polish Mr. K. but, in no particular order, Mexican tenor Ramon Vargas’ stalwart Don Ottavio who expressed his devotion to Donna Anna with meltingly legato llines; Latvian soprano Marina Rebeka’s Donna Anna, Italian soprano Barbara Frittoli’s angry and frustrated Donna Elvira, Venezuelan bass-baritone Luca Pisaroni’s comic Leporello (made more so by Don G’s seriousness), the adorable German soprano Mojca Erdmann’s coquettish Zerlina, equally adorable Australian bass Joshua Bloom as her understandably angry hubby Masetto, and Slovakian bass Stefan Kocan as the murdered Commendatore.  This United Nations of Singers said it all and said it well.

I don’t think Mr. Grandage owes us any apologies.  It is true that the sets and costumes, credited to Christopher Oram were not exciting, but they permitted all the attention to be focused on the excellent singing.  They were not nearly as egregious as Don G’s I have seen that were set in front of tenements or in church basements or funeral homes.  When did opera become a director’s medium?  Let the singers and conductors reclaim the art form!  I wish to see and hear what the composer and librettist had in mind, not the “concept” of some director who wants to impose his vision on a revered work.  Let us not repaint the Mona Lisa!

Please comment whether you agree or disagree.

© meche kroop

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