Monday, March 12, 2012

Met - Don Giovanni - 03/10/12

Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Conductor: Andrew Davis
Producer/Director: Michael Grandage
Don Giovanni: Gerald Finley
Leporello: Bryn Terfel
Donna Anna: Marina Rebeka
Donna Elvira: Ellie Dehn
Zerlina: Isabel Leonard
Masetto: Shenyang
The Commendatore: James Morris

What red-blooded woman would not be thrilled by the opportunity to enjoy not one but two dates with Mozart’s timeless seducer in Mozart’s magnificent opera, Don Giovanni? Not this one! When the Met’s 2011-2012 season was first announced, I was originally torn between the fall’s cast and the spring’s cast until I realized that the best way to resolve the dilemma was… to see them both.

That’s how I found myself back at the Met on Saturday afternoon with my friend Dawn, ready to be ravished not by the youthful fireball that was Mariusz Kwiecien a few months ago, but by the sophisticated player that is Gerald Finley. Although I cannot say that his looks were immediately seductive – some odd choices in the make-up department were giving him a passing resemblance to Mephistopheles – his naturally aristocratic demeanor and undeniable charisma were operating in full force, as was his poised and ardent singing. Don Giovanni had grown up, although he for sure hadn’t matured.
A special treat of this spring’s cast was the inimitable Bryn Terfel taking over the role of Leporello. As Don Giovanni’s hapless but indispensable servant, he superbly conveyed the combination of devotion and exasperation the poor guy feels towards his careless bon vivant of a master. The serious and comic aspects of their tumultuous relationship, so central to the narrative, were vividly underlined by the easy chemistry between the two of them. Bryan Terfel’s voice was in top shape regardless of what he was expressing, and the “Catalog aria” predictably brought down the house.
Matthew Polenzani was a wonderful Don Ottavio, bringing his consistently bright voice to the proceedings while James Morris was more than imposing in the smaller but pivotal role of The Commendatore.
The ladies fared fairly well, especially Marina Rebeka, who powerfully stood out as a thoroughly impressive Donna Anna. Her luscious, remarkably articulate voice enabled her to give plenty of weight and poignancy to the woman that Don Giovanni wrongs not once but twice. Even in her grief-stricken state, her resolve never wavered, and neither did her singing.
Speaking of indefatigable women, Ellie Dehn was a relentlessly present Donna Elvira. Vocally and physically strong, she was a worthy adversary to the incorrigible Don Giovanni.
As the young girl who does let herself be seduced, Isabel Leonard was a cute and engaging Zerlina. She had, of course, the priceless advantage of being part of the enchanting duo “La ci darem la mano”, one of Mozart’s most popular hits. The couple she formed with Shenyang, a good-natured Masetto, was totally charming.
The production had not changed, except for a few details and the bonus of unexpected drama when Bryn Terfel’s coat got stuck in the floor’s trap after Don Giovanni had met his spectacularly hot demise. Not missing a single beat, Terfel unflappably and swiftly got out of it and kept on singing. A stage hand eventually managed to discreetly and quickly yank it off as a sliding wall was about to move over it right before the final ensemble number. Only in live performances, folks, only in live performances.

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