In the Opus Arte live recording of a 2019 Royal Opera House performance of Mozart’s Don Giovanni one could spot on the accompanying leaflet the name of Emanuel Schikaneder listed as the librettist of the (last time I checked) Mozart-Da Ponte collaboration.
If only that were all!
The Danish director Kasper Holten is responsible for a staging so chockfull of wrong-headed directorial choices that it leaves one at a loss for words.
In Holten’s world all women are oversexed and devoid of any moral fiber. In Holten’ world there is obviously no need to mask anybody, neither the Don and Leporello when they switch identities, nor the Donna Anna, Donna Elvira, Don Ottavio visit to the Ball at the end of Act One. In Holten’s world there is no need to provide the supper table repeatedly alluded to in the text as essential for the final outcome, where Don Giovanni is neither confronted by the statue of the Commendatore nor dragged down to hell. In Holten’s world there is no need to hear and see Donna Anna, Donna Elvira, Don Ottavio, Zerlina, Masetto and Leporello wrap things up at the end of the opera.
Donna Anna (Malin Byström) begs for more of whatever she was getting from the Don (Edwin Schrott) when the curtain goes up on Es Devlin’s all-purpose, where-the hell-are-we-anyway set.
Moments later her father (Petros Magoulas), comes out dressed in a nightgown, knife in hand, and a bit later he is lying down, dead.
We next meet Donna Elvira (Myrto Papatanasiou) looking for the deadbeat Don Giovanni, whom she soon meets and, at the mere touch of his hand, is ready to forgive all past transgressions. Zerlina (Louise Alter), who has just wed Masetto (Leon Košavić) is good for a quickie and is soon caught by Donna Elvira in extra-marital flagrante delicto (I’ll spare the not-fit-for-mixed-company details of the Don’s sexual preferences).
Throughout this dramatic ménage-a-trois all three of the sopranos manage to maintain their dignity in spite of the director’s caprices. Malin Byström is a superb, beautiful Donna Anna, dispatching both Or sai chi l’onore and Non mi dir with great style and generosity of tone. Myrto Papatanasiou makes a sympathetic Elvira, singing very well the awkwardly difficult Mi tradi quell’ alma. ingrata. Louise Alter delivers a well-sung Zerlina and is pretty as a picture.
The supporting roles of the Commendatore and Masetto are both well cast: Petros Magoulas a sonorous avenger, Leon Košavić a handsome, savvy peasant. Daniel Behle brings more voice and personality than most tenors to the ungrateful part of Don Ottavio.
In the key roles of Leporello (Roberto Tagliavini) and Don Giovanni (Edwin Schrott) the casting falters. While both these basses are fine singers in their own right and have built interesting careers singing a varied repertory, neither one has the Mozartian style, and the sense of humor and lightness of touch vocally and dramatically to satisfy the demands of these two iconic roles.
Hartmut Haencher capably leads the Royal Opera House Orchestra.
The come-as-you-are costumes are a mixed bag of bad design that leave one wondering if this was Da Ponte’s Seville or another location north of Spain, which is where I understand Mr. Holten has retired to.
Rafael de Acha ALL ABOUT THE ARTS