“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 Ramón 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 for The Opera Insider
8 hours ago