Tuesday 18 November 2008

DVD: Zurich Don Giovanni with Simon Keenlyside

Don Giovanni. Zurich Opera House 2006. Production: Sven-Eric Bechtolf. Cast: Simon Keenlyside (Don Giovanni), Eva Mei (Donna Anna), Malin Hartelius (Donna Elvira), Anton Scharinger (Leporello), Alfred Muff (Commendatore), Piotr Beczala (Don Ottavio), Reinhard Mayr (Masetto), Martina Jankova (Zerlina). Conductor: Franz Welser-Möst. Further information here.

I will admit straightaway to being less than impressed with Sven-Eric Bechtolf´s production of Don Giovanni for the Zurich Opera. The setting is simply a 1930-50 upper-class nightclub, in which the characters enter and exit throughout the opera. Apart from being rather unaesthetic, it´s also plainly uninteresting. Yes, the characters do interact convincingly with one another, but somehow the entire affair never lifts off.

Of the singers, Simon Keenlyside and especially Piotr Beczala stood out.
Simon Keenlyside, by all means is a fine Don Giovanni, singing and acting far above average. That his slightly wooden-sounding baritone doensn´t entirely appeal to me, is probably less important in this context: He does indeed cut a convincing figure on stage.
Even more so Piotr Beczala, who for once managed to make Don Ottavio´s arias something of a highlight. Anton Scharinger provided contrast to Simon Keenlyside in both apparent age and vocal colour (him beeing a bass-baritone as opposed by Keenlyside´s high baritone), but not much more.

Malin Hartelius, an excellent Rosenkavalier-Sophie, simply does not have the vocal power for a Donna Elvira, and seems strangely cast in this part as a high lyric soprano. Almost equally underpowered and seemingly not at ease with Mozartean style was Eva Mei as Donna Anna.

Franz Welser-Möst reminds that Don Giovanni is not an easy work to conduct. Admittedly I am not an easy customer either with my preferences for the likes of Barenboim and Furtwängler. And in that context, Welser-Möst for once provides an appropriately slow reading. However, he fails to maintain the appropriate tension, which results in dragging on as opposed to being poignant. Admittedly it is not easy....

Various excerpts from the production:

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

Simon Keenlyside: 4
Anton Scharinger: 3
Eva Mei: 3
Malin Hartelius: 3
Piotr Beczala: 4-5

Martina Janková: 4
Reinhard Mayr: 3

Sven-Eric Bechtolf´s production: 3

Franz Welser-Möst: 3

Overall impression: 3

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