Tuesday, November 08, 2011

The stranger

Don Giovanni - Metropolitan Opera, 10/31/2011
Kwiecien, Pisaroni, Rebeka, Frittoli, Erdmann, Vargas, Bloom, Kocan / Langree

Those hoping that the originally-scheduled lead of this new production to provide a more integrated portrayal of Giovanni than his predecessor were not, unfortunately, so rewarded. In fact Mariusz Kwiecien seemed to be in a different show altogether. Not for him the telling and interesting interactions with the human environment Grandage so nicely places around Don Giovanni, the world the unscrupulous nobleman was born to enjoy and exploit -- nor even the thrilling opposition to its norms with which Bryn Terfel made such success a decade ago (as one can see on DVD). Kwiecien's Giovanni is neither suave nor malevolent, energized neither positively nor negatively by his milieu, interested neither in the surrounding women, bantering with Leporello, nor food & drink (he, unlike Mattei, never actually eats during the dinner scene), and mostly notable for aloofness and bursts of blank anger. A dangerous man, perhaps in line with current "realistic" ideas, but the take is uninteresting, unrewarding, and quite at odds with the production. He sang well, but not well enough to make up for all of this. Perhaps lingering back pain was to blame? I suspect and fear not.

The decision to first cast Kwiecien -- and to put him up front in the moviecast -- makes even less sense when one sees him standing a head shorter than Pisaroni -- with whom, despite all rehearsal, there's not much chemistry. Very odd.

The rest of the cast was mostly unchanged. New conductor Louis Langree was good, catching the spirit of the piece much better than in his last run.

*     *     *

Reader Carol Prisant wrote, about my original review post:
At Don Giovanni last night, I took particular notice - per your complaint - of the Commendatore's costume. There's more of a rationale for the "skeleton" effect you observed than you may have realized, because that's actually silver passementerie on his uniform, and it appears on his cuffs as well. I think the intention may have been to suggest a corpse, but the gentleman remains a commander, even in death.

That aside, I agree with your general assessment of this production. (You might have mentioned Ramon Vargas, though. The best Ottavio I've heard in years!)
I do agree that Vargas has been great, and Mattei's absence this time really made the show his. As far as the Commendatore, though, I think this officer idea is the intention (and a sensible and clever enough one in theory), and when one looks for it one can see traces on the cuffs, but absent similarly silver epaulettes it's difficult to see anything but the bad Halloween costume in his whole figure. One hopes this will change sooner rather than later.


  1. A reader having problems with the comment system asked me to post the following:

    "Ah, finally someone commenting on this, thanks.
    I didn't see it, but this is what I feared it would be like with regards to M. Kwiecien. - He was great as Don in the Munich production though (saw it a number of times), so I do think he didn't do himself a favour here.
    Should have cancelled it due to health reasons I believe.

  2. what a strange opinion about M.Kwiecien. I saw all 6 performances he sung and he was just great. Strong as always both as a singer and actor. Mattei was very lost as Don G, but Kwiecien was worth every money.


Absolutely no axe-grinding, please.