* Notes *
Intendant Peter Mussbach's production of Don Giovanni currently at Staatsoper Unter den Linden is muddled. It is difficult to believe Mussbach is a neurologist, given how brainless this co-production with La Scala was. There was quite a lot of ineffectual choreography, every person on stage falls to the ground at some point, usually for no particular reason. There was also a lot of spinning around and staggering, sometimes this was well motivated, and sometimes seemed random. People exited at strange times, in the middle of the other singers' arias, or in many different directions. The set is much too loud, the three walls that were pushed all around the stage creaked, and since they were moving during the music, it was often distracting. The set changed even when scene changes were not necessary. There were at least a hundred pieces of tape on the stage to mark where walls or people needed to be, all clearly visible from the balconies. Perhaps if one requires that much tape, the staging is too complicated. It was reminiscent of a monolithic rat maze, and I'm sure that was intentional. There were only a few props, these included two swords, one knife, a white Vespa, an umbrella, a revolver, a pheasant leg, a bottle, and one chair. Absurdly, Masetto is made to mime having a musket in Act II, but produces the revolver from his pocket. Andrea Schmidt-Futterer's costumes were nice to look at, but the female dancers wore high heels and sounded like a herd of elephants. This was absolutely horrible during "Fin ch'han dal vino" and at the end of Act I, as these dancers ran around and drowned the singing. Also, the Commendatore looked like one of those living statue buskers one sees at Fisherman's Wharf, as he had his face painted silver and donned silver clothing.
Asher Fisch seemed to have gotten a handle of the orchestra by the third performance I saw last night. The musicians rarely overwhelmed the singers and many of the synchronization issues were corrected. Sylvia Schwartz twittered as Zerlina, she was somewhat quieter than the other two sopranos, but still much louder than her Masetto, Arttu Kataja. The pair looked very nice together and they acted well. Bass Hanno Müller-Brachmann also acted well as Leporello, he was funny and lascivious. His voice was strong, but he was ever so slightly late in his arias. Annette Dasch looked stunning as Donna Elvira and though her voice is somewhat fluttery, it was always in tune and very pretty. Christof Fischesser made a bigger impression on me as the Commendatore than as the Landgraf in Tannhäuser. His volume was strong and his tone full. Jeremy Ovenden was quiet as Don Ottavio, and the orchestra was sensitive to this, they played quietly in his arias. He was completely overwhelmed by his Donna Anna, Anna Samuil. Samuil had some poor intonation, she was flat in "Non mi dir" last Friday, but was closer to being in tune yesterday. Ironically, just after that aria, two of the walls seem to flatten her. In the title role, René Pape sang beautifully, especially "Deh vieni alla finestra." The stage is unlit at this point, as he is supposed to be serenading Donna Elvira's maid at night, and this confused the audience. Pape's Don is more lovable than most, he isn't quite as slimy or mean as he could have been.
* Tattling *
The audience for Don Giovanni was consistently worse than for the other performances at the Staatsoper. People spoke aloud during arias, such as Don Ottavio's "Dalla sua pace." The young German-speaking women in Tier 3, Right Middle Row 4 Seats 16 and 17 were very annoyed that they could not see the supertitles because of the chandelier, and expressed this at full volume during Don Ottavio and Donna Anna's duet "Fuggi, crudele fuggi" in Act I. One of them also had a coughing fit during "Deh vieni alla finestra," which they were compelled to discuss out loud.
Again someone on the left side of the third tier was wearing a watch with an alarm on the hour, which was audible at each hour, though at least at 9pm it was intermission. The school group from Majorca returned, and they must have been exhausted, for they were also at the Röschmann | Kozená | Barenboim concert earlier that day. They did not take flash photographs this time.