Monday 17 November 2008

DVD: Peter Mattei in 2002 Aix Don Giovanni

Don Giovanni. Aix-en-Provence 2002. Production: Peter Brooks. Cast: Peter Mattei (Don Giovanni), Mireille Delunsch (Elvira), Alexandra Dehorties (Donna Anna), Mark Padmore (Ottavio), Gilles Cachemaille (Leporello), Lisa Larsson (Zerlina), Nathan Berg (Masetto), Gudjon Oskarsson (Commendatore). Conductor: Daniel Harding with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra. Further information here.

Peter Brooks Aix-en-Provence production of Don Giovanni originally opened in 1988 and was successfully revived in 2002. The staging is among the most simplistic possible, being played out on a virtually naked stage, only decorated with with a couple of brightly coloured rectangular furniture-serving shapes or an occasional curtain. All drama resides within and between the characters. A valid approach, in my opinion, but placing a major responsibility for the success of the production on the singers and the conductor. Which they, for most parts, unfortunately could not live up to.

All singers looked their parts really well and acted relatively well. Only one, however, also sang really well, and that was Peter Mattei. If I prefered a lyrical baritone (which I by the way don´t) as Don Giovanni, Peter Mattei would be my clear favourite: His voice is immensely beautiful and even as well as completely unstrained thoughout the register. If I hadn´t heard countless other singers struggle with the part, I´d think Don Giovanni was an easy part to sing. Dramatically, he hits the a convincing balance between the unsympathetic and charming and delivers one of the best Deh vieni´s available (shown below).

That said, Mark Padmore made the most out of Don Ottavio, for once not being intolerably irritating.

Both lead ladies (Delunsch and Dehorties) looked and acted great. Unfortunately, they din´t seem to capture the Mozartean style - Delunsch with extensive rubato and portamento (gliding voice and tempo shift) as well as a lack of rhythm. Furthermore, she is probably vocally better suited to Donna Anna. Rhythmic sense (or lack of it) seemed the major problem for Cachemaille´s Leporello as well, though perhaps Harding is partially partly to blame for creating a rather shaky firmament from the pit.

I must admit to having major reservations on Daniel Harding´s reading of the score. This is the production, which essentially lifted off Harding´s Mozartian/entire career, when he conducted it in 1998 together with Claudio Abbado. Interpretatively, Harding seems to place himself between the transparent clarity of Abbado and the fuller orchestra sound he himself produced in Salzburg with the Vienna Philharmonics four years later. Futhermore, his reading entirely lacks contrapunctual elements, and the Final Scene simply never lifts off. Additionally, Harding is not only fast, he is way too fast, exceeding my limit (which admittedly is not very high) by spades.

Peter Mattei with Deh vieni:

The bottom line (scale of 1-5, 3=average):

Peter Mattei: 5
Mireille Delunsch: 3
Alexandrea Dehorties: 3
Mark Padmore: 4
Gilles Cachemaille: 3-4
Lisa Larsson: 2-3
Nathan Berg: 3

Peter Brook´s production: 4

Daniel Harding: 3

1 comment:

marcillac said...

Excellent review MO, as usual.

One slight correction: the production was originally shown in 1998 (when I saw it) rather than 1988 - most of the singers, not to mention Harding, would have been way to young in 88.

As I've mentioned I'm a big fan of Mattei's Don and am glad you seem to concur. Theoretically I absolutely would prefer a basso cantante as the Don, but Mattei was just excellent and has confirmed that excellence in several performances as the Don and Count at the Met.

This, like the Salzburg Kuseij Don would have been much better recored in the original showing. Primarily for Abbado but the women were also superb. (To be fair, I've never heard Delunsch but have heard Deshorties a couple of times and am not an enthusiast).

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