Don Giovanni - Royal Opera House, 4 October 2008
Pologies for not writing about this sooner, but truly, Mariusz Kwiecien, hawtest Don Giovanni since Erwin Schrott, burned up my SD storage so bad I've only just been able to rescue the precious pixels. His Don is not the cerebral manipulator that Simon Keenlyside offered us in the earlier cast of this production. Instead, "He has something that fits in every woman," as Mariusz explained his feral chancer in a highly entertaining ROH pre-match interview - where, incidentally, he noted his preference as a listener for live performance (yay!) over CDS - "if I see something good, I copy it!". But that's one of the great things about Mozart's conception of Don Giovanni - a hundred different approaches will all work, in their own way.
With this less aristocratic Don came a less sharply-drawn contrast between the noble seducer and his craven aide, Leporello. This didn't work to the advantage of Alex Esposito, whose performance wasn't always as focused as it could have been - tentative with the brash physical comedy and not always totally in line with the orchestra. But he's not without talent, and I suspect he'd impress more in a production less reliant on brainless vulgarity than this one.
The tiny Patrizia Ciofi simply didn't have the clout, physically or vocally, to make anything much of the steely Donna Anna, pretty though her singing was. A miscast. Ian Bostridge, on the other hand, was a near-perfect Don Ottavio. He has famously complained that Mozart tenor roles are 'boring', and his performance led me to agree. But shouldn't Don Ottavio be dull? We need some reason to find Donna Anna's ultimate rejection of him credible. Beautifully sung, anyhow.
The best physical casting came with the pairing of the huge, lumbering Levente Molnár as Masetto and petite Rebecca Evans as Zerlina. They didn't have the knowing chemistry of Robert Gleadow and Miah Persson in the earlier cast - this was a much more traditional interpretation. But Rebecca Evans was winningly sweet and technically faultless, a delight to listen to, and Molnár convincingly lunkish.
Emma Bell's Donna Elvira was convincing in hysterical fury, less so in contrition, and didn't quite make all the notes. But where in the earlier casting the inevitable focus on Joyce DiDonato's stunning Donna Elvira had perhaps not worked to the advantage of the show as a whole, here the balance was redressed, and it became Don Giovanni's story once more.