Don Giovanni at the Met
May 06, 2023
* Notes *
Director Ivo van Hove's debut production at The Met, Don Giovanni (ovation pictured), opened last night. The direction is sleek and contemporary, but best of all was baritone Peter Mattei in the title role.
Essentially the set is part of a square with five grey, brutalist buildings. There are lots of rectangular openings, arches, and stairs. It looks like a stripped down piazza. Nothing much changes for the first act and most of the second, which makes Don Giovanni's descent to hell all the more stark and surprising. This part of the production really does work well.
The staging is contemporary, the men are in suits and dress shirts and the women in cocktail dresses. Everything is very black, white, and grey. This also means there are no swords, and the duel in the first scene involves a gunshot. It also means that the Commendatore is not a statue, but simply the singer wearing his bloodied shirt.
Maestra Nathalie Stutzmann made her debut with yesterday's performance as well, and the orchestra sounded very clear, and there were only the slightest synchronicity issues of getting ahead of the singers. Woodwinds and brass were lovely. The low strings were particularly beautiful in "Batti, batti, o bel Masetto” and the mandolin solo from John Lenti for "Deh, vieni alla finestra" was gorgeous. I very much enjoyed the continuo, it was jaunty and playful, especially Jonathan C. Kelly's fortepiano playing.
The cast is solid. The three sopranos all sounded really distinct. Ying Fang has a light, bright voiced Zerlina, while Ana María Martínez is icy and histrionic as Donna Elvira. Federica Lombardi was somewhere in the middle of these extremes, she certainly conveyed the feelings of her character Donna Anna. She has a big, dramatic voice, but sounded almost angelic in "Non mi dir."
Bass-baritone Alfred Walker is a grounded Masetto, bass-baritone Alexander Tsymbalyuk is a powerful Commendatore whose low notes are still audible over the orchestra, and bass-baritone Adam Plachetka is charming enough as Leporello. Tenor Ben Bliss gave the stiff and formal character of Don Ottavio some freshness, his arias were sweet and effortless but full of feeling as well. But best of all was baritone Peter Mattei as Don Giovanni, he struck the right balance of seductiveness and lack of empathy to play this rake. Sometimes it's difficult to see the appeal of this character, but Mattei really sells it, his voice has warmth and nuance. His "Fin ch'han dal vino calda la testa" was appropriately light and frothy, while his "Deh, vieni alla finestra" was plaintive.
* Tattling *
I flew in to New York at 7 in the morning for this performance, but only figured out there isn't standing room this season at 10am when the box office opens. I was surrounded by unmasked coughing ladies in Row F Seat 7 of Family Circle, which I'm just not used to anymore. It might have been fine, but there was a lot of rifling through purses for cough drops, offering of cough drops, declining of cough drops, and ultimately unwrapping of cough drops that was all rather loud and happening during the music. I hightailed it to the back of Family Circle, which was much nicer for me.
Someone was even more upset than I was near the score desks, house right, for he called out "Quiet" right before "Ho capito! Signor, sì." I guess I'm glad to see that we are all back to normal after the pandemic days of no opera performances. There were the usual watch alarms at the hour, of course.