Opening of Don Giovanni at Seattle Opera
January 16, 2007
* Notes *
Chris Alexander's new production of Don Giovanni premiered last Saturday at Seattle Opera. The set, designed by Robert A. Dahlstrom, was rather flat and limiting. Basically, it consisted of a large wall with many partitions, which did make the scene changes seamless, but was rather domineering and monolithic. Marie-Therese Cramer's costumes were a mix of contemporary and Rococo. The choreography was similarly confused, cast members would randomly put themselves into doorways or oddly bobble to a minuet.
The most painful and hilarious moment of the performance was when Don Giovanni descends into Hell. For one thing, it is obvious just where this will take place, as this part of the stage is lowered to be a pool in Scenes IV and V of Act I. In Scene V, Act II, the Commendatore inexplicably enters Giovanni's house by a gigantic crack in the aforementioned monolithic wall. Then he proceeds to the table that has been artfully raised from the ground at the beginning of the scene and casts down his admonitions. Clearly, vengeful statue ghosts wish to cast down their admonitions from tabletops! When Don Giovanni takes the Commendatore's hand, he must also jump atop the table, which is slowly sinking. Instead of plunging all the way to Hell in one go, Don Giovanni flings himself away and has to slither around the floor for a good long time before he finally makes his way back, then the lighting changes and a huge white sheet descends to cover the wall. Naturally the sheet does manage to get caught on one of the chairs.
Mariusz Kwiecien was the strongest singer, and being in the title role, this did cause an imbalance for the production as a whole. His acting was also good, he was an unctuous fop. Pamela Armstrong showed potential as Donna Anna, though she lacked control. Her high notes had too much vibrato, which lead to being off key. She was also rather loud. Though her voice needs to be reined in, it is warm and resonant. Marie Plette sang Donna Elvira as if she were a Puccini heroine. Richard Croft's Don Ottavio was simpering, he did have good volume, though he did seem strained at times. Eduardo Chama was a mocking and very funny Leporello. He has a pretty voice, but his diction was sloppy. Ailish Tynan (Zerlina) has a girlish sweet voice, but looked absurd in short skirts with her skinny legs. Kevin Burdette (Masetto) started off too fast, but his acting had a strong physicality and he was convincing in his role.
* Tattling *
This was definitely the most badly-behaved audience I have observed at Seattle Opera, even worse than the Sunday matinee Die Fledermaus I attended last year that convinced me to not subscribe again. The evening started off badly, when I got to my standing room place, the person in the adjacent seat had placed her coat over my spot. My companion asked her to move it, and it was only grudgingly done. The person in question must have not enjoyed the opera, for she left after the intermission.
There was a noisy altercation between some people in the center section of the orchestra level during the overture. There were two rounds of hushing before this settled down. Profanities and invectives were employed.
All of the couples in front of us spoke during the performance, but the people on Aisle F Row BB Seats 1 and 2 were loudest. Among the erudite comments were "He's the guy!" when Masetto appeared onstage, "Nice control!" after one of Donna Anna's arias, and "That was Modigliani" in response to the many female nudes flashed upon a screen during "Fin Ch'han Dal Vino."
A watch alarm went off during Act II, and it beeped at least 8 times before silenced. This was followed by an angry but whispered argument between two men on the right side of the orchestra level. Another man decided he could no longer take Donna Anna, and left in the middle of her aria, despite his being in the middle of the row. About half a dozen people had to stand up to let him leave, and one of them had a bit of trouble and toppled over.