Sunday, June 08, 2003

OPERA: Don Giovanni

Los Angeles Opera put on a very creative staging of this Mozart classic from the Polish National Opera (much more memorable than the first production I saw). The costumes were brightly colored Commedia Del'Arte style, with minimal sets and a staging that emphasized the theatrical box, as if it were all a puppet show. The director, Mariusz Trelinski, did a tremendous job of conveying Don Giovanni as both man and myth. As the first notes of the overture begin, the three ladies of the opera summon Don Giovanni up from the grave: his story must be repeated, and the ladies can't let go of him. In the beginning of Act I, Leporello appears bearing a huge hourglass on his back, a symbol that reappears at the end as he is preparing supper for Don Giovanni and the Commendatore.

Don Giovanni wears a bright red tri-corner hat and cape, and these symbols stand for him, in some scenes on their own. He pulls all the strings: In the scene where he has switched costumes with Leporello who is sweet-talking Donna Elvira, a forest of strings hang from the rafters and there are mirrors on the back and sides of the otherwise dark stage, as Don Giovanni shadows behind Leporello lending his voice. The strings and mirrors continue as Don Giovanni (disguised as Leporello) cleverly dispatches Masetto's gang of thugs, leaving Masetto alone to be beaten. In another innovative scene, where Zerlina is trying to reassure Masetto of her faithfulness, the director has playfully made it just more of Don Giovanni's string pulling: Don Giovanni literally choreographs a forest of topiary trees, so that he keeps grabbing Zerlina when Masetto isn't looking and then disappears behind a tree just in time. (Zerlina and Masetto are in bright yellow clownish feathery costumes, almost spoofing Papageno/Papagena.)

Many of the voices in this production were excellent. The Uruguayan bass Erwin Schott made a powerful, sexy Don Giovanni with a remarkable clarity for the bass part. Hungarian soprano Andrea Rost sang a sparklingly pure Donna Anna, with American tenor John Matz singing passionately at her side ("Dalla sua pace" was deeply moving) as Don Ottavio. Anna Christy gave a wonderful coloratura performance as Zerlina, and Adina Nitescu was also very good as Donna Elvira. The acting was excellent all around, and much credit is due to choreographer Emil Wosolowski as well.

No comments: