Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Salzburg 2010: Don Giovanni

Center of Salzburg -- next to Tomaselli café. Look at the banner...

Don Giovanni, August 9th 2010, Haus für Mozart, Salzburg

Yannick Nézet-Séguin ..... Conductor
Claus Guth ..... Stage Director

Christopher Maltman ..... Don Giovanni
Dimitry Ivashchenko ..... Il Commendatore
Aleksandra Kurzak ..... Donna Anna
Joseph Kaiser Joel Prieto..... Don Ottavio
Dorothea Röschmann ..... Donna Elvira
Erwin Schrott ..... Leporello
Anna Prohaska ..... Zerlina
Adam Plachetka ..... Masetto

Vienna Philharmonic
Concert Association of the Vienna State Opera Chorus

Last night was the night of the premiere of the revival of Claus Guth's production of Don Giovanni.  I saw this show in its first run, with Annette Dasch and Matthew Polenzani as Donna Anna and Don Ottavio respectively. This time Aleksandra Kurzak was our Donna Anna. Although her timbre is maybe not among the most beautiful ones on the market, that girl can sing wonderfully and she knows how to employ her coloratura potential to effortlessly nail all the high notes, yet remaining perfectly audible in the low register. She's scenically convincing and to me she was the best woman on the stage last night.  Dorothea Röschmann is maybe the best mozartian soprano today, and her Donna Elvira is excellent. I noticed however that her voice is not as voluminous as it used to be, and I wonder how she will cope in Le Nozze at Opéra Basille this fall... Anna Prohaska is a very fine singer, but even if her Zerlina is a cutie, Ekaterina Siurina's voice is still echoing in the Haus für Mozart (Ekaterina was Zerlina in the first run of this production in Salzburg). Jürgen Flimm appeared on the stage at the beginning of the show, which meant something bad: I was looking forward to listening to Joseph Kaiser's Don Ottavio, but hélas-hélas Jo was indisposed for the premiere and had to be replaced by the guy who was supposed to sing the role later in August, Joel Prieto. Don Ottavio is the crowd's pleaser and Joel of course received a bunch of cheers. He's the Operalia 2008 winner and I was glad to get the opportunity to listen to his live singing. His voice is flexible and not big but it fills well the Haus für Mozart. He's easily reaching all the top notes and with his youngster's timbre the effect is definitely pleasant. I saw  Dimitry Ivaschenko in Barrie Kosky's Rigoletto at the Komische in Berlin and I knew he was a huge potential. I'm glad to see him as Il Commendatore here in Salzburg. Now, he's a bass but  'baritoning' and I believe with some extra work he may be one of our future Wotan's...
The winners of the evening were undoubtedly Christopher Maltman and Erwin Schrott. Maltman is our perfect Don Giovanni. Nothing to add, nothing to subtract away. He's scenically perfect and vocally unbelievable: when he sings piani he lets the beauty of his timbre exhibit its full glory and makes you understand he's the man who sings and records the songs by Schubert, Mahler, Debussy, Fauré, Britten, Strauss... And yet, when he needs to push to forte, it sounds almost natural and he shakes the house. Good news to Parisians: Maltman is coming to Bastille in October as Il conte Almaviva!
As for Schrott, I believe this is his best rendition of his favorite role. I guess Guth fine-tuned the production to make Erwin feel perfectly at ease and to show off his acting skills. His intonation problems were nonexistent last night and the volume of his voice was as big as Maltman's. Both men received huge ovations in the end, and the both deserved every bit of them.

Yannick Nézet-Séguin has got that aura of a true talent. He's young and I sincerely hope this ego-flattering will not turn him into a self-sufficient star like Muti. He's the new crowd favorite in Salzburg --he also conducts Roméo et Juliette-- and when the crowd is in love with you here, your ego must swelling like crazy... Back to his performance: his conducting is indeed wonderful. It's true that with this orchestra you can do pretty much what you want, but it's clear that Yannick leads the show -- he's the one pulling the ropes 100% of  the time. While Philippe Jordan (another young super-duper talent!) is too apprehensive not to drown  the singers, Yannick unleash the orchestra most of the time and the singers are most of the time walking on the edge (of audibility). Yet the beauty of the orchestral music is such that you wouldn't mind spending the evening listening only to the orchestra performing Don Giovanni. Yannick is that good!

What about the production? If you ask me, this is a very-very classical staging of Don Giovanni, but obviously transposed to our time. It should please the young audience as much as the middle-aged opera freaks. Leporello rolls some marijuana at the party and the pot-smoking partiers have loads of fun... you can easily recognize the scenes from some parties you've been on :) Donna Elvira is particularly well portrayed, and the scene in and around the car involving Donna Anna, Don Ottavio and Don Giovanni is dramatically wonderful.
I'll come back to the details of this production when discussing the DVD of this show that appeared a week agoClaus Guth is not pushing the theatrical boundaries [like it was the case with Tcherniakov in Aix!] He follows closely Da Ponte's libretto and 'only' brings the story close to our time. In doing so he meticulously takes care of all the details to make the drama gain in depth while perfectly preserving the fluidity of the show. If you look for a DVD with classical staging of Don Giovanni, but with all the cobweb blown off, then this should be the one.

The purists will complain about the ending as the last scene of the original Don Giovanni is completely left out. I personally welcome this ending because the drama ends right there, with the death of Don Giovanni. The epilogue usually comes like an Alka-Seltzer in a flute of champagne, so I'm fine without it :)

A few pics from the Salzburg Festival website:

 Don Giovanni, Leporello, and a Snooki-looking Donna Elvira (101) at the bus stop

 Don Giovanni and Donna Anna in --to me-- the best part of the show

 Zerlina-show is dramatically weak link of the show, but that's NOT Guth's fault. Tcherniakov understood that well... 

 Don Prieto and Donna Kurzak 

 Don Giovanni and  Leporello before the end...

And my CC pics after the show:

 Dorotea Röschmann, Ana Prohaska, and Dimitry Ivashchenko

 Erwin Schrott enjoying his moment...

 Christopher Maltman - da best DonGio around!

 Claus Guth and Yannick Nézet-Séguin received big ovations too

 Adam Plachetka and Joel Prieto

 Since it was the premiere, you imagine how the crowd was dressed for the night...

Inside the Haus für Mozart:

And finally a pic from the post-premiere party [cut out from "Daily"]


  1. Ah ah ah... just what i was browsing around in Salzburg!!! In feverish and ohh so joyful anticipation of my own flash vacation there :-) And I have Nezet Seguin on my plat too YAY!! Sadly not with the DG one can’t have it all :-) But I can’t wait to see and above all hear how he handles one of my favourite scores ever!

    But I tooo like this production of DG and I guess Maltman and Schrott make a brilliant pairing. I’ve seen another one a few years ago, just as brilliant , if different in style though… Keenlyside-Ketelsen. Not to diminish Maltman’s achievement in any way, but I’m guessing you haven’t seen Keenlyside do DG. Sadly that train has gone as I think he has moved on from the role now… but I am very much looking forward to hear Schrott do both roles sometimes soon at the ROH again :-) Having seen and heard his Figaro this year I was absolutely blown away!! I want more of his Mozart! And both Figaro and Leporllo suit him like a glove :-)

    I personally love Kurzak! You should have seen her Matilde with Florez! She upstaged him in the last act! I just can’t picture her bubbly personality as meek donna Anna… maybe she is not so bland in this production. My last Elvira was Joyce (DiDonato)… :-) But I looovveee this opera!! Can’t wait to hear it again, of all Mozart this I love best. And I would love to hear N-S conduct it …

    But girl, what is up with the torture photos???? Please don’t rub our poor mortal noses in the Tomaselli and cake photos… too cruel!!!

    Enjoy Salzburg!! ( go to the Sacher caffee and have a cake in style :;-)

  2. Hey Hariclea! I saw that same production at ROH and the production was appalling [simply catastrophic staging, which must qualify for the Top-20 of the worst opera shows ever]. But there was Joyce and Kyle. I also like very much Simon but in that production his voice was already too rigid for Don Giovanni (especially compared to what Maltman does right now -- it's unreal!) Simon's Wozzeck is mind blowing though.

    So when are you coming? I'm staying till Friday. You plan to see Roméo et Juliette, don't you? ;)

    Errr, let me check... I'm still male! Cheers :)

  3. Oh ;-))))
    Bugger... only heading over on the 23rd!.. er because i am supposed to be heading to Luzern on Sunday.
    But i will try to tell all about it :-)))
    Hm... i think Maltman is doing Pappageno in the next season, must get me some tickets, although that is not my favourite Mozart:-)

    You didn't like the Zambello DG? How.. unsurprising :-) I didn't think it was that bad, but good it ain't. However, for the last blink of an eye scene, that was not a bad idea.

    Yes, it will be R&J (my first and last one live has been .... too many years ago at the ROH with Alagna). To be honest very very hard act to follow, but i think going to the 2nd cast is a good choice. It was an impulse decision, mostly due to Nezet Seguin, but even though the ROH will revive its production, i would not have changed my mind, the one in Salzburg will be better (musically). It's funny it is the only Gounod i like, cheesy as it is, the one that i have seen was gorgeous! Mackerras was in the pit.. sigh...

    Enjoy Salzburg! What else are you seeing?? Any concerts? A friend of mine saw the Kissin concert and is still raving :-)

  4. Roméo et Juliette with Nézet-Séguin and with this cast is really not cheesy -- in spite of what Sher does on the stage. You'll see that when this music is played by a wonderful orchestra and conducted by this ultra-talented man, it becomes romantic and never cheesy. OK, you'll see and you'll let us know! And I am with you on this one, i.e. this it is the only Gounod I like too.

    Please do see Maltman. I don't believe it is humanly possible to sing Don Giovanni any better than what he does (and scenically he's totally in it too!)

    I'm only seeing the operas while I'm in Salzburg. During the day I go in the surrounding mountains (breathtaking scenery! will post some pics on Friday) and in the evening I go to see an opera.

    Tonight I saw Lulu and I am trying to figure out why it didn't work for me while there were all elements for it to be the show of this year's festival...

    Cheers :)