Thursday, December 04, 2008

Don of the dead

I was at Monday's return of Don Giovanni, with much the same cast except for two new women (Tamar Iveri as Donna Anna and Dorothea Röschmann as Donna Elvira) and a conductor -- Lothar Koenigs -- making his Met debut. Tenor Mark Thomsen also debuted in place of an indisposed Matthew Polenzani. The evening was, unfortunately, a bust.

The new women did their part. Iveri is a sound and admirable singer, and the higher-lying Donna Anna fits her voice better than Vitellia did in the spring. I praised Susan Graham much as Elvira two months ago, and it's true that the mezzo fullness of her low notes is now missed, but Röschmann has her own success. (I'd never before quite realized how affecting Elvira's recits could be.) Vocally she took a bit of her first aria to warm up, but was in secure voice all night and showed a spaciousness of sound that bodes well for bringing her light-Wagner successes to the Met. In chararacter she showed the same transparent-seeming abandon as always, and in a better overall production I'd be eager to see it again.

Thomsen's debut was less auspicious. He showed a recessed sound and struggled to get through Ottavio's two difficult arias. And perhaps Koenigs had the same first-performance-of-a-run problem that other visiting conductors have, but he didn't show much either. It's true that he didn't try to civilize the score to death as Langree did, but until nicely shaping the final scene he showed little fire or particular insight.

All of the returnees did well... Except, unfortunately, the title character. Erwin Schrott is still swaggering vocally and physically for the called-for moments, but seems now to be phoning it in, disconnected not only from the action but from himself. Even the one real display of character -- Don Giovanni's hyper, physically-manifested nervousness before the Commendatore's arrival -- is now gone, and everything seems like a stock gesture. Yes, his voice and pecs are impressive, but... If you ever wondered what would happen if Derek Zoolander played Don Giovanni, this is your chance to find out.


  1. "If you ever wondered what would happen if Derek Zoolander played Don Giovanni, this is your chance to find out."

    Very funny! There may be a Zoolander sequel. Don Giovanni may be too "high brow" for Zoolander.

    Schrott just cannot get me to the opera house. For swaggering vocally and physically, I will wait for Kwiecien

    Wish Santa would send me tickets to see Mr. Mattei singing the Don again and Mr. H singing Count di Luna, my favorite manly man (oh,villain) in opera.

    BTW, do you ever wonder why the villains in so many movies love opera / classical music?

  2. I'm quite surprised that they let Mark Thomsen go on as Ottavio. Not to say that he was bad--I didn't see his performance, so I can't judge--but since Polenzani cancelled with almost 72 hours' notice, and both Ramon Vargas and Michael Schade are at the Met rehearsing, it's a shock that they didn't try to persuade one of those stars to jump in at the last minute.

  3. Maybe Peter Gelb does not want to pay Sr. Vargas' or Herr Schade's fee.

    Herr Schade can sing Don Ottavio backwards. As for Sr. Vargas, it would be such a delight to hear him sing Don Ottavio at the MET. I'm so glad I have his ROH Don Ottavio on cd. But Peter Gelb only thinks Alagna or/and Giordani are "stars".

    Such a shams.

  4. Well, Vargas sang one performance of the Ballo Riccardo last season, replacing Licitra, when he was in town to do Rodolfo and Tito, so there is precedent for him as a jump-in artist. Plus, I can't imagine the fee Vargas would get is considerably larger than Giordani's.

  5. I would assume Sr. Vargas' and Herr Schade's fees will be higher than Mark Thomsen's.

    Besides, it is just Don Ottavio, in Gelb's mind, who cares?!

    I sure hope I was wrong about Gelb.

    Thanks for your comment reponse, Anonymous. Nice "chatting" with you on this.


Absolutely no axe-grinding, please.