Don Giovanni from the Royal Opera


OPERA IN TWO ACTS BY Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, with a libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte

Directed by Kasper Holten

Set design by Es Devlin

Costume design by Anja Van Kragh

Video design by Luke Halls

The Royal Opera Orchestra and Chorus conducted by Nicola Luisotti

Don Giovanni – Mariusz Kwiecien

Leporello – Alex Esposito

Donna Anna – Malin Bystrom

Donna Elvira – Veronique Gens

Zerlina – Elizabeth Watts

Don Ottavio – Antonio Poli

Masetto – Dawid Kimberg

Commendattore – Alexander Tsymbalyuk

Il dissoluto punito, ossia il Don Giovanni translates literally as Don Giovanni, the Punished Dissolute. Based on the legend of Don Juan, a fictional character who seduced hundreds of women in several European countries, the original play written by Tirso de Molina inspired many playwrights and novelists to spin their own stories about this iconic cad, most famously Lorenzo Da Ponte, the librettist for Mozart’s opera.

The casting requirements – based on Mozart’s own wishes for the premiere are clear. The title role was conceived for Luigi Bassi, a baritone who also sang the part of Count Almaviva in Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro. Francesco Benucci, Mozart’s favorite bass-baritone was the Leporello. The Donna Anna and the Donna Elvira were cast with similar sopranos in the premiere and in the Prague revival, and one can surmise that Aloysia Weber and Caterina Cavalieri fared well in roles that required agility – Donna Anna’s ‘Non mi dir’ and Donna Elvira’s ‘Mi tradi’, in addition to dramatic cutting power.

When it comes to the women in the Royal Opera cast, the choice of Malin Byström for Donna Anna and Veronique Gens for Donna Elvira works well. Both these fine artists take on the challenges of their several arias unfazed, both have flexible, full-bodied instruments and idiomatic command of the text. Elizabeth Watts is a fine Zerlina.

The men’s roles are well assigned as well: Mariusz Kwiecien in the title part – a lyric baritone with enough vocal heft and dramatic skills to make the final confrontation with the Commendattore work, and bass-baritone Alex Esposito, a Leporello light and flexible of voice, very funny in his handling of the Catalogue aria, and vocally solid in all the ensembles in which he carries the bass line. And both Esposito and Kwiecien are terrific actors. Don Ottavio is well sung by Bruno Poli and Dawid Kimberg delivers an effective Masetto.

When it comes to the staging and design one struggles to find words of praise. Director Kasper Holten, set designer Es Devlin, costume designer Anja Van Kragh, and video designer by Luke Halls seem all four bent together in imposing a drab, post-modern look on the production. That visual concept fails to bring to life the fantastical element of the story and, what is worse dehumanizes the behavior of the characters.

Nicola Luisoti conducts with a solid command of the score as well as stylishly playing the recitatives.

This DVD is part of the Royal Opera Collection (  OA1337BD / OABD7291BD).    

Rafael de Acha    ALL ABOUT THE ARTS