Thursday, April 21, 2005

Meet Don Gio

Recent seasons have brought two first-rate Don Giovannis to the Met stage: Bryn Terfel's daemonic, daring incarnation -- soon to debut on DVD -- and Peter Mattei's virile and seductive traditional-Don-in-the-flesh. Of whom then was Gerald Finley the vessel for last Saturday evening's performance?

It was a nervous, fidgety fellow, whatever else. Constantly turning from one bit of physical schtick to another -- without care for concealing any baseness. Was there a character to this at all? A Don Giovanni who's all motion, no inner person may sound a clever conceit but is frustratingly dull to watch.

It's unfortunate, since the aural part of Finley's performance was pretty good. Even more unfortunate that only Ramey and Bayrakdarian were up to this standard -- though Tamar Iveri, debuting via this revival, was pretty good if unremarkable. None in the cast hit the heights of the early 2003 revival (Mattei, Furlanetto, Radvanovsky, Diener, and Netrebko -- who disappointed as Zerlina). All were saddled with Gina Lapinski's hurlyburly stage direction (the cause of Finley's disastrous physicality?) and Philippe Jordan's refined, balanced, and only occasionally lively conducting.

All in all, it didn't add up -- as many a poorly-sung and superficially-conducted Figaro has nevertheless done -- to much of an evening. Perhaps I shouldn't have listened to the brilliantly-sung Zauberflöte broadcast beforehand. Or perhaps I should've noticed that the once-essential Bernard Holland rule (read whatever he says, and go on the exact opposite) was available again to me here.

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Absolutely no axe-grinding, please.