Don Giovanni -- Metropolitan Opera, 4/24/09
Mattei, Ramey, Wall, Frittoli, Breslik, Bayrakdarian, Bloom, Aceto / Langree
It was not only the Met and Placido Domingo who celebrated anniversaries this season: 2008-09 also marked twenty-five years of Samuel Ramey singing with the Metropolitan Opera. (He debuted, with Handel himself, in Rinaldo.) Last night's performance as Leporello was Ramey's final outing of this anniversary season, and the company marked it with a small but well-received ceremony after Act I. Peter Gelb came out, congratulated Ramey, and presented him with an antique score of this very opera (in which he and Ferruccio Furlanetto alternated the leads here in 1990).
The performance itself was similar to that of April 13, with Joshua Bloom returning from the fall cast as Masetto. Isabel Bayrakdarian was, again, not great but this time wasn't awful either, so I'll chalk last time up to acute distress. Erin Wall still struck me as an odd vocal mix -- combining fullness and force with very little lower reinforcement -- but it is, within its scope, such a live and big-house-loving sound that this seems an odder nit to pick (particularly in the fairly high-lying part of Donna Anna). Chest sound or no, there's no lack of color or depth to the timbre: she's the one woman of this cast I'd particularly like to hear again. Seeing Mattei once more drove home the difference between his plentiful stage activity and his immediate predecessor's: where Erwin Schrott's Giovanni would swagger and move because he wasn't connected, Mattei's did it from zest and ever-renewed pleasure. Yes, yes, his appetite oversteps the world and heaven's bounds, but in so doing it affirms wine, women, and song as mere pathology doesn't.
Ideal combination cast of the season: Mattei, Ramey, Wall, Graham, Polenzani, Leonard, Bloom, Aceto. But I'd have given much to have had Levine conduct the opera once more.